Informal Opinion Number: 980220

Rules: 4-1.6; 4-7.1; 4-7.5
Information About Legal Services
Communication Concerning a Lawyer´s Services
Summary: confidentiality and advertising when lawyers are office sharing

QUESTION: Attorney is involved in an office sharing agreement with three other attorneys. Each person pays all expenses relating to their practice and each contracts separately with clients. They do share common overhead expenses. They are also networked together on the same computer system and everyone on the network can access all of the client files for all of the attorneys. The attorneys are the sole occupants of a stand alone building and the sign in front of the building lists the names of all attorneys and the words “Law Office´. There is one receptionist answering the telephone for all four attorneys. Currently, each attorney has their own stationery with their name at the top. Should Attorney list the names of the other attorneys on Attorney´s stationery? If so, what is the proper way to list these names?
ANSWER: Under Rules 4-7.1 and 4-7.5(f), if Attorney is in an office sharing arrangement, all stationery, signage, etc., should indicate that Attorney is completely separate. If Attorney includes the other attorneys on Attorney´s letterhead, it would give a contrary impression. If Attorney has a separate practice, it is not appropriate for the other attorneys to have access to confidential information regarding Attorney´s clients. This applies to electronic information in the computer system, paper files, incoming and outgoing fax materials, etc. Attorney should take immediate steps to make any necessary changes to comply with the requirements of Rule 4-1.6 regarding confidentiality.

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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