Informal Opinion Number: 2019-07

Adoption Date: 2019

Rules: 4-1-6; 4-1.10; 4-7.1
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Information About Legal Services
Confidentiality of Information
Imputed Disqualification: General Rule
Communication Concerning Lawyer's Services
Subject: Conflict of Interest - Imputed Disqualification; Nonprofit Organizations; Of Counsel; Pro Bono
Summary: Of Counsel lawyer at firm providing pro bono representation at nonprofit organization

Attorney has an Of Counsel relationship with Law Firm. Attorney also plans to provide pro bono representation at a nonprofit entity serving low income clients. Attorney will have access at the nonprofit entity only to the client files of those clients Attorney represents. To what extent will Attorney’s conflicts of interest be imputed to the other attorneys in Law Firm and to the other attorneys associated with the nonprofit entity?

Answer: Attorney’s conflicts of interest from Law Firm will not be imputed to the other lawyers at the nonprofit entity if Attorney’s association at the entity is as a contract lawyer only. To work as a contract lawyer, Attorney’s representation of clients must be on a case-by-case basis, and Attorney must not have access to confidential information, electronically stored or otherwise, of clients Attorney does not represent at the nonprofit entity. See Informal Opinion 20030020. Attorney must avoid any communication with other lawyers at the nonprofit entity about other representations at the entity, and Attorney must protect the confidentiality of all information related to Law Firm representations. Because Attorney is associated Of Counsel with Law Firm, Attorney’s conflicts of interest will be imputed to all lawyers at Law Firm. Rule 4-1.10. Provided Attorney works at the nonprofit entity exclusively as a contract lawyer, as described above, the firm-wide conflicts of the nonprofit entity will not be imputed to the other lawyers at Law Firm. Only the conflicts arising from Attorney’s representations at the nonprofit entity will be imputed to the other lawyers at Law Firm. If Attorney were to become associated with the nonprofit entity in a capacity that allows Attorney access to client files or information generally, both Law Firm and the nonprofit entity would share all conflicts of interest as if they are a single firm, and both Law Firm and the nonprofit entity would be required to disclose Attorney’s dual association in all materials in which they hold themselves out to the public. Rules 4-1.10 and 4-7.1. See Informal Opinion 980143.

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