"At least in Minnesota, it is now unethical for solo practitioners to use "& Associates" in the law firm name. The Minnesota Lawyers Board of Professional Responsibility just adopted that rule in its new Opinion 20.
The stated reason for the rule is that Rule 7.1 prohibits false and misleading statements and Rule 7.5(a) shall not use a firm name or letterhead that is in violation of Rule 7.1. Using the term "& Associates" in a firm name, the LBPR reasoned, is misleading if there are not more than two licenses attorneys in the firm. While recognizing that "Associates" has other meanings in general use, the term has come to have a specific meaning in the custom of law firms.Needless to say, there has been consternation among some solo practitioners. Many solos feel they are being unfairly picked on; that if large law firms could continue to use the names of dead partners they should be able to intimate non-existent "Associates." (That is specifically dealt with in the comments to the Minnesota Rule 7.5 - a firm can continue to use the name of a dead partner if their is a continuation of practice or a trade name.)
Not an issue for me of course. I practice solo. No associates. No clerks. Just a computer or two. Neither the law office nor the computer has a name (and for the record, no dead partners either)