In my now 22+ year career at the Bar, I worked in only two law firms; my father’s and now ours. I was at his firm for 16+ years before I left to set up my own.
When I joined his firm in 1998, it was called Chua Brothers, Azzat & Izzat. The Chua brothers were the former health minister, Chua Jui Meng, and his brother, Chua Jui Leng, who was a good friend of my father’s. The former long left practice for politics. The latter left practice in 2000 to fully embrace property development. His departure prompted my father to change the firm’s name to Azzat & Izzat.
I set up my firm as Fahri & Co. and ran it solo for 5+ years before my father joined me. After he did, I added his name to the firm and restyled it to Fahri, Azzat & Co. If all goes well, this would be the last firm I am in. Unless someone sets up Rumpole & Co. or some acceptable permutation of that name, then I may have to give that a think.
The name of the firm is personal to me, not because it contains my whole name.
Each element has its significance.
The comma after my first name bears significance. It distinguishes me from my father even as it connects us. There is also the simple pleasure of seeing our first name’s together. Both our first names make up my entire name. There is no bin in my name.
That was my father’s doing as a result of asking a twelve-year-old me at the National Registration Department as he was filling up the form for my identity card whether I wanted the bin in my name. I said I didn’t. He asked me why. I, who already had a nose for puns then, replied that I did not want people to put rubbish in my name. He was amused and told me, that was a good one, and actually left it out.
When I was transitioning from my previous firm name to my present one, the most common suggestion was to drop the ‘& Co.’ It was superfluous. If it were just my name, bam bam, it was simpler and sounded neater. Two syllables apiece. Or our first names flanking the ampersand.
True. I don’t dispute that.
However, for me, the phrase, & Co., is important because it serves two personal purposes.
The first may be obvious to others. The second is personal and so, obscure.
The first purpose of & Co. is to acknowledge everyone in the firm and those related to it. It acknowledges our lawyers, our staff, our pupils, our interns, our working partnerships, our clients, and everyone who passed through our firm and contributed to us and created conditions of learning for us. & Co. signifies that we are in each other’s company in this enterprise of people, as opposed to an artificial legal entity.
The second but more significant purpose of & Co. is to acknowledge my mother. Her English name is Molly, but her surname is Koe. Koe is pronounced the same as Co. & Co. is my surreptitious way of including her into the firm name and so making her presence felt, for me at least.
Perhaps it is fitting she manifests in that way as a nod to her giving birth to a constant, compulsive, and inter-language punster.