Name Games

Juliet:  “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 Scene 2).

 As I grew up, I came to realize that I bore the same name as the Honorable William J. Brennan, the well known United States Supreme Court Justice from New Jersey, including the same middle initial.  In law school, I was once asked during a job interview if we were related.  No such luck.

 I have been practicing law with the firm for 36 years and my practice is generally in civil litigation and municipal law. 

 Some time ago I learned of another William J. Brennan, Esquire who practices in Philadelphia in the field of criminal law.  I have spoken with Bill over the years as we have received each other’s mail and been mutual victims of confused clients and judges.  I recall a telephone call from an angry Philadelphia County Court Judge directing me to appear in a Philadelphia court room immediately for a trial of a criminal defendant whose name I did not recognize. 

To complicate matters there is a third William J. Brennan, Esquire practicing commercial law in Philadelphia at the firm of Pepper Hamilton.  I have been informed that the third William J. Brennan is actually the grandson of the aforementioned Supreme Court Justice.  This Bill and I have also discussed possible name confusion, but our conflicts have been minimal.

All of this was a passing minor annoyance until relatively recently when the criminal law William J. Brennan began taking on higher profile clients involved in controversial public proceedings.  He represented the celebrated Bucks County Phillies fan/alleged prostitute (who ultimately had her conviction reversed); he is now involved with a traffic court judge accused of some very bad behavior; he has represented the son of a famous actress in a theft case; he is involved in the high profile case against several Philadelphia area priests on child abuse charges.

All of this has led a number of my business and government clients to wonder whether I have radically changed the focus of my practice or possibly lost my mind.  I assure them that I have done neither.  I certainly wish the other William J. Brennans well, however I would ask them to be sure to behave themselves in the event they come out to the suburban counties to practice law in their respective fields.

— Bill Brennan

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