Rudolph Henry Yeatman Jr., 73, an attorney in Washington for more than 40 years before his retirement in 1971, died Wednesday at Georgetown University Hospital. He had undergone surgery for an arthritic condition.

Mr. Yeatman had practiced law with the firm of Paul and Yeatman, with offices in the Munsey Building.

His clients included the old Washington Times-Herald. He became general counsel of the newspaper in 1947 upon the death of his father, Rudolph H. Yeatman Sr., who also had served The Times-Herald as general counsel and was an authority on liebel law.

The younger Mr. Yeatman remained as an attorney with The Times-Herald until it was purchased by The Washington Post in 1954.

He was born in Washington. He was a graduate of St. John's College High School, where he earned letters in baseball, basketball and football. He graduated from Georgetownn University Law School in 1931.

While earning his law degree, Mr. Yeatman played the saxophone professionally with various groups at night clubs and taverns in the Washington area.

He was a member of the D.C. and Maryland Bar Associations and a past president of the Manor Country Club. He lived in Silver Spring.

He is survived by his wife, the former Cecelia Lockwood, of Silver Spring; four children, Rudolph H. III, of College Park, Cecelia Y. Petty, of Denton, Tex., and Francis E. and William K., both of Rockville; two brothers, William H., of Silver Spring, and Francis X., of Kensington; a sister, Lucille Y. Richardson, of Rye, N.Y., 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Arthritis Foundation.