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Court reprimands attorneys for trade-name use

May 11, 2009

Three attorneys who practiced separately but advertised as an LLC were publicly reprimand by the Indiana Supreme Court for violating several Indiana Professional Conduct Rules by not letting clients know they didn't practice law as a firm.

The Supreme Court combined the disciplinary actions against J. Michael Loomis, Robert A. Grubbs, and Robert J. Wray into one order posted May 8 and agreed a public reprimand was the appropriate discipline for violating Rules 7.2(b), and 7.5(a) and (b). The sanction was consistent with discipline imposed in other cases involving misleading attorney communications.
 
Loomis, Grubbs, and Wray, along with another attorney who is not a respondent in this action, formed "Attorneys of Aboite, LLC," named after a township in Allen County. The three represented clients individually and didn't practice as a firm; all three used the names "Attorneys of Aboite, LLC" and "Attorneys of Aboite" in professional documents, communications, advertisements, signage, telephone directory listings, and a Web site without revealing they didn't practice law as a firm.

The State Board of Law Examiners never issued a certificate of registration for those names; the attorneys stopped using the name in October 2008.

The Supreme Court found the attorneys' use of "Attorneys of Aboite, LLC" and "Attorneys of Aboite" to be improper because a lawyer in private practice shall not practice under a trade name. The use of "LLC" implied that the attorneys were practicing law together as a LLC and not as individuals just sharing office facilities. Using an LLC in a name implies the LLC maintains adequate professional liability insurance or other forms of adequate financial responsibility for the protections of clients and that the State Board of Law Examiners investigated the LLC and certified it, according to the order.

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