Informal Opinion Number: 980029
QUESTION: Attorney is interested in setting up an Internet web site that would provide generalized legal information. The site would set up access to three attorneys who are non-affiliated, private practitioners. Would a plain and unambiguous disclaimer stating that this is not a law firm and that the attorneys are not affiliated be sufficient to insulate the attorneys involved from being considered to be a firm?
ANSWER: Although a plain and unambiguous disclaimer may be sufficient to alert someone to the actual nature of the relationship, it may not be sufficient to insulate the attorneys from being treated as a firm from an ethical standpoint. In addition to the concerns Attorney has raised about creating the appearance of a firm, Attorney should also be aware that there are concerns about soliciting e-mail from prospective clients through a web site. If Attorney engages in the practice of communicating with current or prospective clients by e-mail, Attorney bears the responsibility of providing them timely advice regarding the relative security of communication by e-mail, in general, and in the particular computer setting through which they would be communicating. Attorney also creates the potential for conflicts of interest to be created through the receipt of substantive information by e-mail which may involve a person whose interests are adverse to a current client.
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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