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by Christian Stiegemeyer, Director of Risk ManagementThe Bar Plan Mutual Insurance Company
The standard of whether attorneys working under an office sharing arrangement will be held liable for the malpractice of their co-tenants is if a reasonable person would conclude that the attorneys were a firm. The factors used to determine whether such a conclusion is reasonable are varied but traditionally include the following:
Various statutes also dictate how a lawyer's corporate status is conveyed to the public. Section 356.071.1(1) R.S.Mo. states that a professional corporation must include the words "Professional Corporation" or "P.C." in its name and identify itself with that designation in the course of rendering any professional services. Section 358.450.1 R.S.Mo. states that the name of a Limited Liability Partnership must contain the words "Registered Limited Liability Partnership" or the abbreviation "L.L.P." or ''LLP" as the last words of its name. Section 347.020, RSMo states that as a general rule a Limited Liability Corporation shall transact business under the name set forth in its articles of incorporation, which must include "limited company" or "limited liability company" or "L.C." or "L.L.C."
Failure to comply with these statutes may result in sanctions imposed by the Secretary of State's Office and in some more egregious circumstances, loss of the protection granted by the corporate status. The Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, in Informal Opinion 940048, advised that the failure to provide in a lawyer's letterhead information of a lawyer's corporate status violated Rules 4-7.1-Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services and 4-7.5(f)-Firm Names and Letterheads.
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