Why are the names of attorney's firms in the US so boring?

I’ve noticed that all, or almost all, attorney’s firm names are simply something of the like:

Name1, {Name2, …}, Attorneys At Law.

For example, Smith and Jones, Attorneys At Law, or Johnson, Cohen, and Lieberman, Attorneys at Law.

Do attorneys not care about branding? I know that some companies spend millions just on naming themselves - do attorneys just not care, and assume that since none of their law school profs ever worked under any company that wasn’t just a boring list of the founders or partners, that they shouldn’t either?

Perhaps they need to maintain an aura of professionality, and something like "Su-Em-Nao ™ Inc., will get them laughed off the bar and onto every stuffy corporate executive’s blacklist.

I think I once saw a “Smith, Smith, Smith, and Smith”. Guessing that it was a family business, what would have been the harm of calling it “Smith Family Law Practice”, or “Smith and Sons”, “Four Brothers”, or something even marginally more creative that “Smith, Smith, Smith, and Smith”?

Smith and Sons and Four Brothers sound like moving companies to me. If they keep it in the formula it will a) sound “professional” and b) people will instantly know you’re an attorney and stop if they need your services.

I have seen a few attorneys that deviate from the formula and they do seem a bit like shysters.

Like doctors, architects, and other professionals, attorneys present themselves as having the skill and prestige you’re hiring being that of the individual, not the corporation.

If you hired an attorney from AttorneyCorp, it would seem like you were getting an “out-of-the-box” or “assembly line” representation, an interchangeable commodity, when what you want is a feeling that you’re hiring a skilled individual who will bring his or her own unique, highly trained skills to bear.

Accordingly, a name like “McGillis, Crawford, and Ethelred, Attorneys at Law” puts the emphasis on the professional qualities of the individuals in question. It’s a matter of branding in that this is true even if you know nothing about the lawyers in question or if the lawyer you hire is not a partner in the firm.

In a field like law, the attorney’s name is the brand.

Jacoby and Meyers?

Also, having personal names in the firm names gives the various junior partners something to fight over. Or maybe “strive for” would be a more positive way to put it.

You have to remember, too, that professional legal ethics prevented advertising at all until very recently (within the last 10 or 20 years, IIRC). Tradition is powerful in a field like Law.

Some states prohibit nicknames in legal advertising. The constitutionality of such laws is still up in the air. (e.g. “Jim The Hammer Shapiro”)

With law firms, there’s a lot of prestige in being a full partner and getting your name out on the sign. Other professions have partnership arrangements similar to law firms (medicine, architecture, planning, and engineering to name a few), but there isn’t the same emphasis on having your name on the sign. Thus, you’ll have both “Smith + Jones Architecture” (architecture firms are big on plus signs in the name of the firm) or “habitat architecture” (likewise with lowercase letters). Medical group practices are more democratic, with a single name for a group (something like “Schaumburg Allergy Partners”) being more common.

The initials of a law firm serve as informal branding, but it’s usually not used in advertising. Dewey, Cheatem and Howe might be called “DC&M” by other lawyers or clients, but in advertising they’re going by their full name.

In the end, it comes down to how eager the partners are for having their names on the sign, weighed against the advantages and shortcomings of branding. For law, the partners MUST have their names out front, and branding is seen as nontraditional and sleazy.

I am not sure if it’s universal but in my case when I ‘hired’ an attorney I hired the individual assigned to my case. I went to a nice looking law firm that seemed very respectable. After a few months into my case the attorney handling my case left the firm. When I contacted the firm they told me I would have to talk to my Attorney, they no longer represented me :mad: :confused: I was very confused because I thought I hired this respectable firm, not some individual.

There was a bit of time when I couldn’t get a hold of my attorney, I assume while he was trying to get his office setup. When he did get it setup it was a dumpy little place that I never would of went to in the first place.

So… When you hire an attorney you are actually hiring one of the names and if he leaves the firm you go with him. Is this right?

This is definitinely a “YMMV” thing. Here in Canada, there are large firms which are using their initials as their “Brand” - for example, “Borden Ladner Gervais” uses BLG. Others use just one name from the partnership, like Gowling Lafleur Henderson, which is just “Gowlings.” A lot of the time these brand-type names evolved from the nicknames that lawyers used to refer to the firm, especially if it was a mouthful of several names.

It depends on the firm, the terms of their internal partnership & associate contracts, and the retainer that the individual has with the firm or lawyer - in other words, it’s not possible to generalise.

Some firms do have “firm clients” - that is, clients that have been with the firm for a long time, get a variety of legal services, and are not considered to be the client of any particular lawyer. These types of clients tend to be big commercial enterprises.

Other firms have more of a culture of each lawyer has their own clients, and if the lawyer leaves the firm, the lawyer takes those clients along.

Other times, the firm and the departing lawyer may agree that they’ll give the option to the client to choose whether they want to stay with the firm, or go with the departing lawyer.

And, it also depends on whether you said at the initial consultation if you wanted the firm as a whole, or the particular lawyer.

For example, Mrs Piper and I were having some legal work done, and the lawyer we retained left the firm part-way through and went to another firm. We got a letter signed jointly by her old firm and herself, explaining the situation and asking if we wanted to stay or go. Since we had gone to that lawyer in the first place because of her expertise in the particular area of law, we followed her to the new firm. We had to pay out our bill in full at the old firm first, so that they would release the file to the new firm, but it was all relatively painless.

So, lots of variables.

I don’t know why law firms have boring names, but I was gravely concerned in the 1970s when rock bands started having the same kind of name, like Loggins & Messina, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, etc.

It seems like law firms want to convey an image of “Old Money.” “A1 Legal Services” or “Greater Springfield Attorneys” don’t really have that, sounding more like a tradesman.

Why “in the US”? What are the names of firms like in your country?

As others have said, this is to a large extent a matter of tradition and expectations. The legal profession has been heavily regulated by state governments for at least a century. Many states had strict rules about what names firms could use. Things have loosened up to a large extent, but there are still some rules, depending on the state you’re in. For example, I know that at least some states say that if a person leaves the firm, then the firm must remove that person’s name from the firm’s name (exceptions being if that person retires from practice or dies).

While things are changing, they are changing very slowly. To a large extent, members of the public, who generally know nothing about the law and less about what makes a good lawyer, rely on image cues, such as fancy offices, expensive suits, and, indeed the name of the firm. “Jones & Smith” sounds more prestigious than “The Law Office of John Smith,” which in turn sounds more reliable than “Metropolitan Legal Advisors” which sounds better than “Gold Medal Law Firm.”

One of the major U.S. firms has merged with a British firm and now goes under the name “DLA Piper.” I believe this is the first major U.S. firm that has switched to an initialism. I expect we’ll see more of it as time goes on.

The U.S. legal profession is a lot more conservative than in other countries. For example, I believe that most U.S. states place restrictions on who can be a direct supervisor to a lawyer in private practice, which usually means that only lawyers can be in charge of a private firm that offers legal advice to clients. That means law firms can’t be headed up by, say, accountants, consultants, engineers, or other kinds of people with business expertise. This is a source of frustration to large comprehensive professional services associations from Britain and other countries that offer a range of professional services to clients because it restricts their ability to enter the U.S. legal services market.

Haven’t heard of Binder and Binder, I take it?

If I were a lawyer and started my own firm, I think I’d call it “The Justice League”. I’d probably never get a client, but the geek factor would outweigh that disadvantage for me. :smiley:

Its not simply a US thing. I believe all the magic circle firms in the UK are “boring” I think most of the law firms in the world follow this convention.

In some jurisdictions you were required to practice under your own name (I don’t think this is the case anymore).

Its not a matter of professionalism. I can think of several medical practices with manes like “Sheboygan Pediatrics” or “Advanced Radiology” I think its a matter of convention.

Even the one example here DLA piper is actually an abbreviation for Dow Lohnes Albertson.

Until you get killed/captured by Super Villains ecstatic that they finally found the secret base. Better put your firm in the center of the earth, although that might also cut down on walk-by business.

There are laws relating to the names of professionals and their companies.

I’m a CPA and really did not want my company name to be “My Name, CPA” (for several reasons, one being that a lot of people aren’t sure how to pronounce it). In order to do this legally, I had to get the specific permission of the State Board of Accountancy. Apparently, this procedure itself is relatively new (say, 20 years or so old), and there are still quite a few rules about the types of entities and choice of names permitted for CPAs in my state.

I’m sure the rules are somewhat different for lawyers and that they also vary from state to state, but this should provide a useful example.