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The End of the Ampersand in American Law Firms

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By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

The ampersand is losing its place in legal history, and English history itself.

Barnum & Bailey, Smith & Wesson, and Abercrombie & Fitch are America's partnerships. Their names are synonymous with clowns, guns, and casual wear. But many businesses today have jettisoned the literary joinder, including law firms that have traditionally mated partners with an ampersand. To some, losing the ampersand is losing history and some partners along the way.

Losing Ampersand

Of course, it's all about marketing. Big firms like Orrick, Harrington & Sutcliff have pared it down to Orrick. But what happened to ampersand -- and the other partners? We'll answer that for you: their names have been sacrificed on the altar of branding. Writing for the ABA Journal, Norm Tabler says the ampersand is a character worth saving. (No mention of the partners, however.) He decries how big law firms have announced their "ampersand-less titles with the swagger of a smug middle-ager presenting a new trophy spouse." Tabler says big firms are decimating the ampersand. Sidley Austin, Jones Day, and Mayer Brown have all killed it. Tabler calls it "rampant ampesand-icide," and calls on lawyers to rally for the literary and-one. If your firm doesn't have one, he says, "then propose that it get one."

"Refuse to recognize other firms' annihilation of their ampersands," Tabler says. "When you speak of such a firm aloud, include the ampersand, even emphasizing it, as in 'Sidley and Austin.'"

Losing History

Of course the ultimate in marketing is one-name recognition. It means you have arrived, like Madonna or Kobe (whose name is synonymous with missing shots, check the stats, Laker fans, and where would he be without Shaq?). Likewise, where would any law firm be without the partner after the ampersand?

The TaxProf Blog understands and repeated the rallying call to save the ampersand in law firm names. The blog pointed out that the ampersand has flourished in American law firms for more than two centuries. Mike Livingston added to the commentary, suggesting that sometimes two-name firms can be confusing -- even with the ampersand. He recalled the Los Angeles firm Loeb & Loeb, which apparently kept the ampersand for blub-blub reasons, and shared a dialogue from law school:

"I know Mr. Loeb and can help anyone seeking a job at this firm," one student said.

"Which one?" asked the other.

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