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Post on May 22nd, 2017

OBLIC provides answers to your ethics and practice questions from the Director of Loss Prevention in response to Hotline Calls or in- person questions at CLE seminars. This column will feature Q & A’s from those sources of general interest to OBLIC policyholders.

Question: I received a request by email from a third party entity that uses a nationwide network of attorneys to serve as local counsel to other attorneys, law firms and legal departments of companies, asking me to appear at a hearing scheduled soon in the local court in the county seat where I practice.  Can I do this?

Answer: While an attorney can limit the scope  of representation under Rule 1.2 of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, that requires communication with the client, not a third party provider. There may also be issues of sharing fees with non-lawyers and the professional independence of a lawyer, pursuant to Rule 5.4, as well as issues of client confidentiality under Rule 1.6 and potential conflicts of interest under Rule 1.7 and other applicable ethics rules. A lawyer considering undertaking this type of representation should carefully consider the ethical issues involved. If you have questions, please contact OBLIC.

Question: Can an IOLTA account be used for deposits when administering small estates?

Answer: Comment [1] to Rule 1.15 says, “A lawyer should maintain separate trust accounts when administering estate moneys.” The Best Practice is to set up a separate trust account  for the estate. This guards the confidentiality of the clients.  See also Ohio Revised Code 2109.41.   It is recommended that the attorney consult with the Probate Court to determine the Court’s position on this issue.

Question: Can a lawyer be listed with the Better Business Bureau?

Answer: Opinion 87-027 issued by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, the former name for the Board of Professional Conduct, indicates that a lawyer may become a member of the Better Business Bureau provided the BBB continues its practice of forwarding inquiries and complaints regarding lawyers to a local bar association. While this opinion was issued under the Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility, superseded by the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, on February 1, 2007, a recent check with the Board of Professional Conduct confirmed that the advice in this opinion is still good.