With the recognition that a brand name or trade name is important for business, there is a trend among large prestigious law firms and even some smaller law firms to rebrand their law firm name to one that is good for branding.
What’s good for branding? A simple one-word tradename, preferably one that stands out. Hence, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy is now just “Milbank”.
I believed for years that prohibiting law firms from using a trade name is unconstitutional. There is no rational basis to require law firms to use the name of a partner, especially when the names of partners deceased for many decades are permitted.
Now, big law firms are ignoring ethical prohibitions or pretending to comply and rebranding with trade names.
Today’s partners may think an argument could be made that Milbank is not a trade name but simply the name of the original deceased partner. However, there is no question that Milbank is a trade name.
According to the New York Law Journal, Milbank Chairman Scott Edelman said there is no longer any connection between the lawyers at the law firm today and the original named partners of days gone by.
Christine Simmons wrote in her New York Law Journal article, “While the firm is proud of its history and the partners’ contributions, Edelman said, ‘it’s been so long that they’ve been associated with the firm,’ and there’s ‘no connection with the lawyers here today and those names.’ ”
Milbank is the latest law firm to rebrand. Recently, the law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo rebranded to “Mintz”.
The American Lawyer wrote, “What does the law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo have in common with Dunkin’ Donuts?” In the same week, both the law firm and Dunkin’ Donuts shortened their names to one word.
It’s time for law firms to choose trade names to promote competition.