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Chief Technological Officer. We don't know about you, but at least to us, those three words carry no indication of a license to practice law. None whatsoever.
But, the Texas Bar ethics committee thinks it does. It's also banned titles like Chief Executive Officer, or really anything with the word "officer" in it, out of fear that it will confuse the townsfolk into mistaking them for practicing attorneys.
It's all part of the ban on nonlawyer ownership. And while the opinion is unlikely to affect most small firms (if you have a CTO, CFO, or CEO, you ain't that small), it seems like some BigLaw
officials important nonlawyer people are going to have to order some new business cards.
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No Nonlawyer Executives, Managers, Officers ... Whatever
Why no CTOs? The opinion cites a handful of rules, some more persuasive than others. Rule 5.04(d)(2) prohibits lawyers from practicing law in an organization if "a nonlawyer is a corporate director or officer thereof[.]" And Rule 5.04(b) prohibits a lawyer from forming a partnership with a non-lawyer if any of the activities of the partnership consist of the practice of law.
At least by the text of the rules, the ethics board doesn't seem too insane. It's just completely out of step with the way firms are run. Instead of Ma & Pa, Esq., with a few lawyers and a few paralegals, larger firms have specialized staff for handing the tech demands of thousands of people, or marketing the firm to corporate America.
And with these enormous workloads come enormous paychecks and titles. Insisting that they have no management say and no titles that might confuse the simpler folks is a bit naïve, isn't it?
BigLaw's Big Titles
The bigger the firm, the larger the nonlawyer staff. And BigLaw has a lot of nonlawyers, from marketing folks to tech gurus. And like the rest of the professional world, these folks have titles commensurate with their egos, er, job responsibilities.
Bloomberg BNA tosses out a couple of examples: Scott Green, the Chief Executive Officer of Pepper Hamilton LLP and Elizabeth Hughes Eginton, the Chief Marketing Officer of Latham & Watkins.
Latham has an office in Texas, by the way, and better get to ordering new business cards for their CMO.
25 Things You Can Call Your Tech Guru
Chief Technical Officer is out. The opinion specifically bars identifying nonlawyers as "officers" or "principals."
So what can you call the person who keeps your entire office running? Here in Silicon Valley, where startups pepper their payroll with ridiculous titles, we're experts in coming up with job titles. Here are a few ideas:
What do you call you tech person? Tweet your suggestions to us @FindLawLP.