The term “General Counsel” does not appear in the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct. Yet, the term's ongoing use has been recently approved by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Supreme Court of Ohio.1
A lawyer’s or law firm’s use of the title “General Counsel” was proper under DR 2-102(A)(4) of the former Code of Professional Responsibility. After the former Code was superseded in 2007, the designation’s proper use needed to be clarified. According to the Board, the use of the designation on letterhead and business cards, and in communication on behalf of the client organization is proper under Rules 7.52 and 7.1,3 provided the communication is truthful. In other words, use of the title must not be false, misleading, or nonverifiable.
The Board opined that the “General Counsel” designation or similar title is properly used in communications on behalf of the client organization when a lawyer or law firm represents a client organization in all or most of the client’s legal matters, devotes a substantial amount of professional time to the client organization, and has been actually given the title by the client organization.