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Amal Alamuddin. Amal Clooney. Amal Alamuddin Clooney. This whole marriage thing can get a bit confusing, right?
It's even more confusing for clients and the court, which is why the decision about whether to practice law under your maiden or married name is pretty darn important. There's the marketing and name recognition aspect. There are ethics considerations too. And, of course, the convenience factor: changing firm names, business cards, websites, and letting clients and the court know.
Maybe hyphenation is in order?
As you can probably imagine, the state bars seem to have no problem with people using their married name. The general consensus seems to be that as long as you aren't doing so for deceptive reasons, it's perfectly acceptable.
In fact, in New York, there are a series of opinions that allow attorneys to practice using nicknames, or even to practice under one's "maiden name" after being admitted under one's "married name." In Arizona, "a lawyer who changes his or her name upon marriage may continue to practice law under the former name and use the married name for personal or social purposes unrelated to the practice of law," though he or she must change their name on her bar record.
Your state's ethics opinions may vary, but we doubt any state would prohibit the use of a married name altogether.
Managing Your Brand
The real issue, of course, is marketing. If you've built a practice using your maiden name, switching to your married name may make it more difficult for former clients to find you. You'll also have to update everything: bar records, website, business cards, etc.
For Amal Clooney, this is no big deal: Google her, using any combination of maiden and married names, and you'll find her law firm's bio page, including a CNN article about how she's now practicing law under her married name. But not everyone can marry George Clooney. And if you change your last name, and start practicing under the new moniker, you're basically resetting your online presence.
We won't even mention the unfathomable: changing your name, only to have to change it again after divorce.