1977

  • Opinion No. 77-17
    Summary: An attorney asked to defend a regular client against criminal charges based upon past misconduct may not properly reveal confidential information received from the client with regard to his past misconduct, without the consent of the client. But the attorney may properly reveal the client's intention to commit a crime in the future, and he must do so if it involves a fraud perpetrated upon a person or tribunal in the course of the representation, or involves a continuing fraud or other illegal conduct to be consummated through the cooperation of the attorney.
  • Opinion No. 77-16
    Summary: An attorney may not ethically represent a plaintiff in a claim for personal injuries where the attorney was previously retained by an insurance company to represent the same defendant in an action brought by a different plaintiff involving a substantially related claim.
  • Opinion No. 77-15
    Summary: The committee has reconsidered that portion of its Opinion No. 74-1 which forbids the use of credit card signs or insignia in the office of a lawyer, in the light of more recent cases construing the First Amendment as applied to professional advertising, including the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Bates et al v. State Bar of Arizona rendered June 27, 1977. We now hold that the truthful use of credit card signs or insignia in the office of a lawyer is proper.
  • Opinion No. 77-14
    Summary: The members of a newly organized professional corporation may continue to use its former partnership name "A, B & C" in its dealings with the general public on its letterhead. The designation "P.A." or "P.C." may also be used, but is not required.
  • Opinion No. 77-13
    Summary: A Massachusetts law firm may agree with an out of state law firm to have nonprofit organizations distribute a dignified announcement to their Massachusetts members stating that the Massachusetts law firm will provide legal services to their members. No consideration is given by or received from the nonprofit organization and fees are not shared between the out of state law firm and the Massachusetts law firm. It would not be proper, however, for the Massachusetts law firm to have the names of the out of state law firm on their letterhead or otherwise use the name of the out of state law firm in Massachusetts.
  • Opinion No. 77-12
    Summary: A former client telephones an attorney, saying that although he has not been apprehended, and is not in default on bail or probation, arrest warrants are outstanding against him in both state and federal jurisdictions. He asks the attorney to advise him with regard to the status of his case, but rejects the attorney's advice to surrender himself. The attorney cannot properly continue to represent the fugitive as a client, if the client's remaining at large involves a criminal act (such as the federal offense of flight from a state to avoid prosecution) or a contempt of court. If any such crime or contempt or other fraud upon a court occurs after the attorney has been contacted by the former client for advice, the attorney has the obligation to give to the proper authorities any information he may have with regard to the fugitive's whereabouts.
  • Opinion No. 77-11
    Summary: It would be improper for a lawyer, engaged in the practice of another profession or business, to circulate advertisements for that profession or business where such advertising is calculated to lead the general public to believe that legal services are offered or that services would be performed by lawyers.
  • Opinion No. 77-10
    Summary: An attorney may properly represent two bonding companies, one of which bonded a subcontractor who failed to perform his subcontract, and the other of which bonded the architect against errors and omissions on another subcontract in the same construction project, where he can adequately represent the interest of each, and the subcontractor, the architect, and both bonding companies have consented after full disclosure of the possible effect thereof. The fact that the owner is an adverse party in both disputes, and that he fears that the first bonding company may be the beneficiary of the adversary relationship between him on the one hand and the architect and the second bonding company on the other hand does not render the attorney's representation of both bonding companies improper.
  • Opinion No. 77-9
    Summary: A corporation of which a lawyer is the sole officer and stockholder and which has been organized to conduct a title examining business may solicit by advertising. However, the lawyer-officer-stockholder may not certify titles which have been examined by the corporation.
  • Opinion No. 77-8
    Summary: A lawyer employed full time by a bank in its trust department as its "Tax Officer" to render to its customers an "Income Tax Preparation Service":
    (1) May properly bring suit on behalf of the bank in a collection matter, receiving no additional remuneration therefor.
    (2) May properly bill the bank for such legal collection services at the rate customarily billed by an outside attorney. Whether the bank may charge the delinquent debtor for legal collection services of such a full-time employee is a question of law we do not decide, but even if it can, the bank may not properly charge the delinquent debtor with any greater legal fees than the actual cost to the bank of that proportion of the lawyer's time properly allocable to such services.
    (3) May properly have his college and law school diplomas on the walls of his office in the bank.
    (4) May draft instruments for bank customers who seek his legal advice without recommendation by him or promotion by the bank, provided there is no conflict of interest proscribed by DR 5-105, that such legal services for the bank's customers are not done in the lawyer's office in the bank, and further provided that the bank does not directly or indirectly benefit from the services rendered.
    (5) May not have the legal fees charged the bank's customers for such legal services in (4) above used to reduce the compensation paid the lawyer for his full-time services in its trust department.
  • Opinion No. 77-7
    Summary: Where it is clear at the outset that recovery of the amount requested for a client is as a practical matter certain--as may be true of some personal injury protection (P.I.P.) claims--it is improper to charge a contingent fee, and the fee must be based on the factors listed in DR 2-106(B). But if there is uncertainty as to whether the requested claim will be paid in full, or if a single retainer is to cover several claims, in one or more of which recovery of the amount requested is uncertain, a contingent fee agreement is proper. The size of the fixed or percentage fee which may be charged on a contingent basis in such a case must reflect the extent to which it is probable that a substantial portion of the total claim can be collected without much effort.
  • Opinion No. 77-6
    Summary: An attorney who has represented a child and her mother in proceedings before the Registry of Motor Vehicles and elsewhere arising out of a collision between the motor vehicle driven by the mother and another vehicle, may not properly thereafter represent the child in an action against her mother, without the consent of the child, her mother and her mother's insurer, after full disclosure. Even with such consent, the attorney should not bring the action for the child by her mother as next friend, if such use of the mother is unwarranted under existing law because of conflict of interest, or would risk the loss of the mother's insurance coverage due to her failure to cooperate with her insurer as required in the "General Conditions" in her policy.
  • Opinion No. 77-5
    Summary: An attorney may not properly allow a client to use the attorney's letterhead in communicating with the client's debtors, unless he personally supervises and controls the correspondence.
  • Opinion No. 77-4
    Summary: An attorney may properly prepare and distribute to clients (and to prospective clients on request) a dignified "Schedule of Minimum Fees" charged by his office for certain services.
  • Opinion No. 77-3
    Summary: A lawyer may write a newspaper column in which legal topics are discussed and use the title "attorney" in the byline if: (1) he does not undertake to give individual advice, (2) the column does not contain self-laudatory statements or otherwise advertise him as a lawyer, and (3) the disclosure of his profession is pertinent for a purpose other than the attraction of potential clients.
  • Opinion No. 77-2
    Summary: A lawyer may properly represent a wife in a domestic proceeding against her husband, even though the husband was a former client, if the subject matter of the second proceeding is not substantially related to the subject matter of the earlier proceeding in which the lawyer had represented the husband.
  • Opinion No. 77-1
    Summary: A lawyer should not represent a new client against a former client in a matter which the former client discussed with the attorney during the course of an earlier representation.
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