Informal Opinion Number: 950169

Rules: 1.7;1.10
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Conflict of Interest: General Rule
Summary: shared conflict of interest if office sharing measures are insufficient; confidentiality, files, supervision of employees, signage, advertising

QUESTION: Attorney represented W on a motion to modify. Attorney A represented H. Attorney and Attorney A now share office space and expenses but are not partners. W needs to file a motion for contempt against H. Attorney A will not represent H. ANSWER: If Attorney and Attorney A are truly only sharing office space and expenses, Attorney may represent W. In order for the relationship to be solely office sharing, confidentiality must be maintained so that employees of one attorney do not have access to the files and client information of the other attorney. To the extent that any employees are joint employees, they should be clearly instructed on the fact that the offices are separate and information about one attorney´s clients should not be shared with the other. The two practices should appear separate through signage and advertising. Although the space is shared, the overall arrangement should make the separateness of the practices clear. If the two practices are not kept separate as described, each should consider the conflicts of one to be the conflicts of both. Therefore, Attorney would not be able to represent W without the consent of H.

Informal Opinions are ethics advisory opinions issued by the Office of Legal Ethics Counsel to members of the Bar about Rule 4 (Rules of Professional Conduct), Rule 5 (Complaints and Proceedings Thereon), and Rule 6 (Fees to Practice Law) pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.30(c). Written summaries of select Informal Opinions are published for informational purposes as determined by the Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court of Missouri pursuant to Rule 5.30(c). Informal opinion summaries are advisory in nature and are not binding. These opinions are published as an educational service and do not constitute legal advice.

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