OPINION 166
March 1958

  CONFLICTING INTERESTS—COMPENSATION-- PAYMENT OF FEES BY OPPOSITE PARTY- The prohibition against conflicts of interest precludes an attorney who represents a landowner from accepting an offer by a party interested in obtaining an easement across the owner's land, made through his counsel, to pay for the services the attorney will render to the owner during the transaction unless he makes full disclosure to the owner and secures his express consent to the offered fee arrangement.

Canons 635.

Question

X, an attorney, represents a party interested in obtaining an easement across Y’s land. Z is Y's attorney. On being approached by X, Y refers him to Z as his attorney. Y contacts Z and asks him to get as much as he can for the easement. On contacting Z, Y not being present, X offers a given amount for the easement. X also advises Z that X's client is willing to pay a fee, the amount not being stated, to cover the services that Z will render to Y in checking the easement agreement and any other pertinent documents or instruments.

1. Would Z's acceptance of X's offer to pay for the services which Z is to render Y constitute unethical conduct on Z's part?

2. Has there been a breach of ethics on X's part?

3. Would the value of the easement, i.e. whether norminal or substantial, change the result materially?

4. Would the resu1t change materially if X's client is a corporation with power of eminent domain?

Opinion

1. The committee is of the opinion that the question should be answered "Yes." Z’s acceptance of X’s client’s offer to pay for the services which Z is to render Y constitutes unethical conduct on Z’s part, unless Z makes a full disclosure of the facts to Y and secures Y’s express consent to the payment of Z’s fee by X’s client. If the full disclosures is not made and express consent of Y obtained, then there would be a violation of Canons 6 and 35 of the State Bar. (9-0) 

2. The committee is of the opinion that this question should be answered "No" under the facts set forth in the question, assuming      that a full disclosure has been made to Y and he agrees thereto. (9-0)

3. The committee is of the opinion that this question should be answered "No." (9-0)

4. The committee is of the opinion that this question should be answered "No." (9-0)