What Does PLLC Mean in Lawyer Terms?

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The abbreviation "PLLC" in the name of a law firm, or any other business, stands for "professional limited liability company." It's a special type of limited liability company that can only be formed and controlled by state-licensed professionals, such as lawyers.

Limited Liability

The purpose of organizing a company as a PLLC -- or as a regular LLC -- is to shield the owners from being held personally responsible for the debts of the business. In sole proprietorships and general partnerships, the owners have unlimited liability, meaning that if the business doesn't pay its debts, creditors can try to seize the owners' personal assets. Corporations, by contrast, give their owners limited liability. Corporate shareholders can lose their investment, but no more. LLCs and PLLCs give their owners corporate-style liability protections, but free them from having to adhere to many corporate requirements.


A professional limited liability company can be formed only by people whose profession requires licensing by the state. That's why law firms organize as PLLCs. Doctors also organize their practices as PLLCs, as do accountants, architects, engineers and others. According to the legal information site Nolo, most states don't allow licensed professionals to form regular LLCs, which is why they devised the PLLC structure. Others, such as Arizona, allow professionals to form regular LLCs unless specifically prohibited from doing so by the licensing board. According to Phoenix business attorney Richard Keyt, the only Arizona board that requires the PLLC structure is the one that licenses real estate agents. Keyt's own firm is an LLC.


When a law firm or other business registers itself as a PLLC with the state, the organizers of the company must be licensed professionals. Rules vary by state, but typically, the majority of ownership in any PLLC must be held by licensed professionals. In Arizona, for example, unlicensed professionals can own no more than a combined 49 percent of the voting interest in a PLLC.


The limited-liability provisions of the PLLC structure do not protect an owner from personal liability for personal malpractice. In other words, a lawyer operating in a PLLC can't refuse to pay damages in a malpractice lawsuit on the grounds that liability for the malpractice rests with the PLLC, not the individual professionals. However, other owners of the PLLC are also not responsible for the malpractice liabilities of an individual owner.

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