OPINION 270
October 1963

PARTNERSHIP—CONFIDENCES OF A CLIENTIt is not unethical for members to rent offices in a building where business men also have offices and where a receptionist, telephone communication center, secretarial pool, conference room and law library are furnished to be used in common by all tenants; provided there are no improper indications, as on shingles or signs on doors, that the individual practitioners constitute a firm, or that a lawyer and a non-lawyer are partners; and provided, further, that care is taken to preserve the confidences of the member’s clients.

Canons 30, 34.

Question

A small office building is planned in which a receptionist, telephone communication center, secretarial pool, conference room and basic law library would be furnished for the use, jointly, of the tenants who have individual offices in the building. Such office space and facilities are to be made available to young business men and lawyers. Would it be a violation of the Canons of Ethics for a lawyer to take office space in a building having such an arrangement?

Opinion

The Ethics Committee has never held that a lawyer may not office in a suite with a non-lawyer, and the practice of a member’s sharing office facilities with a non-lawyer or with another lawyer not his partner is not unusual. However, in an arrangement such as that described in the inquiry, great care should be taken in regard to the "shingle" or names on the door so that there will be no improper indication that the individual practitioners constitute constitute a firm and no improper indication that a lawyer and a non-lawyer are partners. And preserving confidences may become a practical problem in connection with the proposed secretarial pool.

The question of "feeding" a law practice was brought up, but it is not felt that such a situation would necessarily develop under the circumstances outlined. "Feeding a law practice from controlled businesses is, of course, condemned, but it is the opinion of the committee that a non-lawyer would be inclined to use the legal services of a lawyer whose office is nearby, whether in the same suite or building and that this would particularly be true as to routine legal matters. This does not constitute an unethical "feeder-type situation." (9-0)