Opinion 2020-11 Trade Name Used as Law Firm Name, issued October 2,2020, discusses whether a lawyer or law firm is permitted to practice under a trade name that is not connected to the lawyer’s name or his/her legal services. The opinion states that Rule 7.5 was amended effective June 17, 2020 to remove the prohibition against the use of a trade name as a firm name by a lawyer or lawyers. See OBLICAlert October 16, 2020.
OPINION 2020-01 Covenant Not to Compete Offered to In-house Counsel
SYLLABUS: An in-house lawyer may not agree to an employment contract with a covenant not to compete that would restrict the lawyer’s right to practice after separation of employment.
OPINION 2020-02 Preparation of Deed Upon Direction of Real Estate Agent
SYLLABUS: A lawyer should not draft a deed at the direction of his or her client’s real estate agent that is different than the deed required by an executed contract, without the client’s consent, if the new deed will affect the ultimate resolution of the matter or the substantive rights of the client. When interacting with an unrepresented party in a real estate transaction, a lawyer must identify himself or herself as the lawyer for either the buyer or seller, refrain from giving the unrepresented party any legal advice, and may only advise the unrepresented party to secure independent legal counsel.
OPINION 2020-03 7 Duty of Disclosure of Prospective Client’s Fraudulent Conduct
SYLLABUS: A lawyer should not agree to represent a prospective client who has provided fabricated records to an administrative agency, unless the client agrees to correct the materially false information. If after the lawyer undertakes the representation the client fails to correct the materially false information within a reasonable time, the lawyer must withdraw from representation to avoid assisting the client in an illegal or fraudulent act. If the client places the lawyer in a position where withdrawal is not sufficient to avoid assisting the client in an illegal or fraudulent act, the lawyer must disclose the material facts to the administrative agency. A lawyer who declines to undertake the representation of a prospective client who has provided fabricated records to an administrative agency has no obligation to, and in most circumstances must not, notify the agency of the fabricated records.
OPINION 2020-04 Concurrent Representation of Clients With Disparate Interests Involving the Same Matter
SYLLABUS: A law firm must withdraw from the concurrent representation of multiple clients or seek their informed, written consent when the clients’ disparate interests as to the outcome of the same matter materially interferes with the firm’s lawyers’ independent professional judgment in representing either client.
OPINION 2020-05 Law Director Acting as an Advocate in a Trial in Which Another Lawyer in the Same Office is a Witness
SYLLABUS: A law director or assistant law director may act as an advocate in a trial in which another lawyer in the office will testify as a witness only when the testimony is permitted by common law, if the disqualification of the advocate would work a substantial hardship on the city, or when the testimony relates to an uncontested issue or the nature and value of legal services.
OPINION 2020-06 Lawyer Departing Law Firm
SYLLABUS: A law firm and a lawyer leaving the firm have an ethical obligation to ensure that affected clients are informed of the lawyer’s departure. A law firm and departing lawyer may jointly or separately notify affected clients of the lawyer’s departure from the law firm. The notice may indicate the availability and willingness of the lawyer or law firm to continue to provide legal services to the client. A lawyer and the law firm must accept a client’s choice of counsel prompted by the departure of a lawyer from the firm. A law firm cannot prevent a departing lawyer from notifying affected clients for whom he or she has principal responsibility.
OPINION 2020-07 Modifies Adv. Op. 96-3 Use of Surname of Retiring or Inactive Lawyer in Law Firm Name and Letterhead
SYLLABUS: A law firm may continue to include in the firm name, in a continuing line of succession, the surname of a retiring lawyer granted retired or inactive registration status by the Supreme Court. A law firm may continue to list on its letterhead the name of a lawyer registered with the Supreme Court as “retired” or “inactive” if the name of the lawyer is designated with his or her registration status. A lawyer retiring from a law firm, and maintaining an “active” registration status, may become “of counsel” to the firm as long as the lawyer maintains a continuing and close, regular, personal relationship with the firm. A lawyer granted “retired” or “inactive” registration status may not serve as “of counsel” with any law firm. A law firm may continue to include in its firm name, the surname of lawyer who has retired from the firm and later becomes “of counsel” to the firm.
OPINION 2020-08 Providing Financial Planning Services and Products Through a Law Firm
SYLLABUS: A lawyer may provide financial planning services through a law firm on a fixed fee, flat or hourly, basis. When a lawyer provides financial planning services through a law firm in connection with legal services, all services provided by the firm are subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct. A lawyer may not charge a fee for financial planning services provided through a law firm based on a percentage of the assets managed for a client. A lawyer may not sell financial products, such as annuities, through the law firm to estate planning and business clients. Client consent cannot ameliorate the conflicts present when a lawyer provides financial planning services through a law firm based on a percentage of assets managed basis or when a lawyer sells financial products to clients.
OPINION 2020-09 Payment of an Annual Fee to a Real Estate Agency for Participation in Benefits Program
SYLLABUS: A law firm may not enter a business agreement to pay an annual fee to a real estate agency and offer discounted legal services to customers of the real estate agency in exchange for the real estate agency promoting the law firm as a service provider in a real estate benefits program.
OPINION 2020-10 Law Firm Concurrent Representation of Adverse Clients in the Same Transaction
SYLLABUS: A conflict of interest arises from a lawyer’s concurrent representation of directly adverse clients in the same transaction. A law firm cannot avoid the imputation of a conflict of interest arising from the concurrent representation of two clients in the same transaction by screening separate lawyers assigned to each client.
OPINION 2020-12 Lawyer or Law Firm Use of Service Mark
SYLLABUS: A lawyer or law firm may register and use a service mark in communications and advertising. A service mark used by a lawyer or law firm cannot be false, misleading, or nonverifiable. A service mark that implies certain results, expediency, or a connection to a governmental, nonprofit, or charitable organization is inherently false or misleading. A lawyer may not use the terms “pros” or “pro” in a registered service mark regardless of whether the lawyer has been certified as a specialist in an area of law. A lawyer or law firm may register and use a service mark to convey a limitation or concentration in a particular field of law. A lawyer or law firm may only use a service mark in written or oral communications in conjunction with the formal legal name of the law firm.