OPINION 336
March 1968

SOLICITATION INTERMEDIARIES CONFLICTING INTERESTS An attorney may serve both as attorney for a bank and as Trust Officer of the Bank but he may not at the same time ethically handle legal matters for customers of the bank or maintain an office for outside law practice within the bank.

Canons 24, 32, 6.

Question

May an attorney serve both as Trust Officer and attorney for a bank, handle legal matters for customers of the bank and maintain an office within the bank for outside practice with the designation "Attorney at Law" on his office door?

Opinion

An attorney may engage in any other business provided such business is of such a nature and is conducted in such a manner as not to be inconsistent with the lawyer's duties as a member of the bar and further provided that such business is completely divorced from his law practice. Texas Opinions 91 (November, 1953), 92 (November, 1993) and 119 (November, 1955) and A.B.A. Informal Opinion C-431 (June, 1961). However, when such other business will readily lend itself as a means of procuring (either directly or indirectly) professional employment for the attorney or is closely interrelated with the practice of law, there is almost certain to be a violation of Canons 24 and 32. Texas Opinions 177 (May, 1958), 186 (October, 1958), 196 (June, 1960), 249 (June, 1962) and 262 (August, 1963), and A.B.A. Informal Opinion C-431 (June, 1961). See also, A.B.A. Opinion 57, 225, 233, 234, 272 and 297, and A.B.A. Informal Opinions 39, 41, 42, 43 and 44.

While an attorney may properly act as Trust Officer and as attorney for a bank, it is obvious that he may not at the same time engage in outside practice where he would be called upon to deal with customers of the bank regarding estate planning, trusts, probate of estates, guardianships, etc. Texas Opinions 249 and 262 and ABA Informal Opinion C-431. Furthermore, since a bank advertises and solicits business, it would be improper for an attorney to practice law from an office within the bank, whether he holds a position with the bank or not. It follows, of course, that it would be improper for the attorney's shingle to appear on his office door within the bank.

While we have stated above that an attorney ma, properly serve as Trust Officer and as attorney for the bank, it would obviously be necessary for him to exercise eternal vigilance to avoid conflicts (as prohibited by Canon 6) between the interests of the bank and the interests of the trust department customers.

The foregoing does not mean that a practicing attorney may not ethically also hold a position in a bank as an administrative or an executive officer, such as President or Chairman of the Board, or other position where he is not called upon to deal with customers of the bank on matters which are interrelated with his law practice. He must, however, at all times carefully guard against either direct or indirect solicitation of law practice (Canon 24), intermediary control (Canon 32) and conflicts of interest (Canon 6). (8.)