Bar Counsel Notes: Practice Management Issues


Attorney has decided to go "of counsel" to 15-member ABC Law Firm, but also wants to maintain a solo practice. Is that permissible?


Professional Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion #175 states that it is permissible for an "of counsel" attorney to have a law practice separate from a different practice. In such an arrangement, however, it is important to do a thorough conflict of interest check and to also make sure that each involved client knows in which capacity attorney is acting. Thus, when he takes on new clients in that "solo attorney" capacity, Attorney must make sure each such client knows that is the capacity in which Attorney is acting, and that the ABC Law Firm is not in any manner involved in such legal matter(s).

*Disclaimer: The Informal Ethics Advisory Notes from Bar Counsel are intended as outreach by the office of Bar Counsel for the use and benefit of the Maine bar. These scenarios are drawn from actual telephone calls received by the attorneys in the office of Bar Counsel in the course of providing informal advice on the Code of Professional Responsibility, known as Bar Counsel's "Ethics Hotline." The particular advice in each case is limited with reference to the particular factual situation related by the inquiring attorney who must be inquiring about his or her own conduct or the conduct of a member of his or her firm. We do not provide any advice to one attorney about the conduct of another attorney unless they are members of the same law firm. In the telephone opinions, we usually explore and discuss additional factual variables. However, I have attempted to pare down these factual scenarios to make the email newsletter more readable and useful in a general sense. Obviously, that creates the risk that slight variations on the facts, to a learned reader, may give rise to a different analysis and conclusion.