Tuesday, August 18, 2020
From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court
The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct issued four opinions to replace or modify opinions previously issued by the board under the former Code of Professional Responsibility.
- Advisory Opinion 2020-06 discusses the ethical obligations of a lawyer and his or her law firm when the lawyer decides to depart the firm. The opinion recommends the use of a joint notice to clients affected by the departure of the lawyer and approves the permissibility of both the firm and lawyer informing clients of the willingness to continue the representation of the client. The board advises that when a joint notice is not feasible, neither party should disparage the other or suggest that the client is the firm’s or lawyer’s client. The opinion replaces Adv. Op. 98-5.
- Advisory Opinion 2020-07 explains the use of a lawyer’s name in a law firm name or on letterhead after the lawyer registers with the Supreme Court as “retired”, “inactive”, or becomes “of counsel” to the firm. The board concluded that a firm may continue to use the lawyer’s name in the firm name in a continuing line of succession if the name was included prior to the status change of the lawyer. In addition, a “retired” or “inactive” lawyer may continue to be listed on the firm letterhead with his or her registration designation. The opinion replaces Adv. Op. 91-18 and modifies Adv. Op. 96-3.
- Advisory Opinion 2020-08 reviews the permissibility of lawyers to provide financial planning services through their law firm on a fixed fee, flat, or hourly rate basis, subject to the professional conduct rules. The board cautions that a lawyer may not charge for the financial services based on a percentage of the assets managed for the client. The board additionally advises that a lawyer may not directly sell financial products, such as annuities, to clients due to the inherent and nonwaivable conflict of interest that is created between the lawyer and client. The opinion replaces Adv. Op. 2000-4 and Adv. Op. 2001-4.
- Advisory Opinion 2020-09 concludes that a law firm may not enter into an arrangement with a real estate agency to promote the law firm as a discounted service provider to its real estate clients in exchange for an annual fee paid by the firm to the agency. The board finds the arrangement improper because lawyers cannot give something of value to a third party in exchange for a referral under the Rules of Professional Conduct. The board also concluded that the arrangement creates a conflict of interest that may materially limit the lawyer’s independent judgment when representing the referred clients. The opinion replaces Adv.Op. 2002-1.