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The comma: a great little device for isolating, distinguishing and demarcating. But recent rebranding campaigns have prompted several firms to reconsider their names and, as a result, can the commas. In the past few years, several firms have removed commas from their names as they revamped their logos. Many still cling to their ampersands, some have shortened their names and still others have resorted to trendier, fused versions, akin to PricewaterhouseCoopers. But lately, the bitty swirls have fallen out of favor. “To put in the commas is to divide,” said Daniel Joseph, a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Akin Gump’s thinking, Joseph explained, was that firm names no longer represent individual attorneys in the client’s eye. With some partners’ names still clutching to a firm’s moniker years after their death, firm names today represent a brand rather than a group of people, he said. Similarly, “rebranding” was the reason Wiley Rein & Fielding in Washington, D.C., lost its punctuation mark last year, said firm spokeswoman Debbie Hearns. She said that as the firm decided to go with a new logo, it dumped the comma. Other firms eschewing their commas recently include Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory of Los Angeles; Bradley Arant Rose & White of Birmingham, Ala.; and Gardner Carton & Douglas of Chicago. Brand design firm principal Burkey Belser, with Greenfield/Belser in Washington, D.C., said law firms historically used commas in their names because of the punctilious personalities of lawyers in general. One lost comma in a brief, for example, could change the meaning of a lawyer’s point, he said. “Their dedication to that kind of precision is part of their cultural framework,” Belser said. “When you transition from documents to marketing, you realize [commas] aren’t necessary.” But one firm staunchly rejects the punctuation purge. “We love our comma,” said Christopher Sullivan, a partner at Herrick, Feinstein. In fact, the comma is so highly revered at the New York firm that former Chairman Ed Abramson, now deceased, wrote a booklet, “The Comma Culture.” In it, he discussed how the comma in the firm’s name embodies a philosophy of inclusiveness. “We are a team of individuals, and we’re trying to indicate a certain open-endedness,” Sullivan said. “In a city in which business is power, we try to ingrain in the partners and those coming up through the ranks the sense that the firm comes first.” It is uncertain whether any other two-name firms still use a comma, but Sullivan said that Abramson would tell people that Herrick, Feinstein is the only one. Leigh Jones is a reporter with The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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