1980

  • Opinion No. 80-11
    Summary: A Massachusetts professional corporation organized to practice law may advertise its services to the public at large. It may enter into relationships with other attorneys to whom referrals may be made and with whom fees may be divided as long as the division of fees is made with disclosure to and consent of the client. The committee declines to give its opinion concerning the substantive legal issues arising from the possible application of those provisions of the General Laws regarding the creation and operation of legal service plans.
    While the formation of a Chapter 156B business corporation to provide marketing services to the professional corporation does not raise ethical considerations per se, the nature and structure of the relationship between the two corporations creates a potential for violations of the Disciplinary Rules regarding the division of fees with non-lawyers as well as the entry into a partnership between a lawyer and a non-lawyer. It also raises the possibility of a violation of the Disciplinary Rules with respect to lawyers employed by the 156B corporation assisting a non-lawyer in the unauthorized practice of law.
  • Opinion No. 80-10
    Summary: An attorney may not properly sue an individual person for personal injuries arising out of an automobile accident, while he is simultaneously representing that person in another lawsuit, even though the accidents giving rise to the two lawsuits are unrelated. If the attorney has already commenced suit against the client he is simultaneously representing, he cannot cure his improper conduct by obtaining consent, after full disclosure, from both clients, since it is not obvious from the facts stated that he can adequately represent the interests of both. The attorney is not obligated to keep his first client; however, he may not drop C-1's claim and keep C-2, since acceptance of C-2's claim was a violation of DR 5-105(A). The atttorney may refer C-2's claim to another attorney; however, he may not receive a referral fee, because DR 5-105(A) and (C) preclude him from keeping C-2's case.
  • Opinion No. 80-9
    Summary: The committee declines to give advice regarding unclear portions of interim advertising and solicitation rules as they apply to two plans for providing legal services, because the Supreme Judicial Court's own committee on those rules has been asked to give recommendations for change, and because the aspects of the plans about which inquiry has been made may possibly have constitutional protection.
  • Opinion No. 80-8
    Summary: Whether it is fraudulent for a buyer to purchase land for the sole purpose of immediately reselling to a person with whom he knows the seller would refuse to deal, is a debatable question of substantive law. The committee does not answer questions concerning the applicability of the disciplinary rule prohibiting lawyers from assisting the clients in fraudulent acts, DR 7-102(A)(7). It is clear, however, that the buyer's lawyer has no obligation to disclose his client's confidences to the landowner, DR 7-102(B)(1).
  • Opinion No. 80-7
    The Committee on Professional Ethics unanimously resolved and the Board of Delegates approved the following formal opinion of the committee:
  • Opinion No. 80-6
    Summary: If a lawyer is told by his client of a past fraud on a tribunal, in a matter in which lawyer was not involved, the lawyer must not reveal the fraud against the client's wishes. If the person who reveals the fraud to the lawyer was not a client or in a confidential relationship, the lawyer may reveal the fraud, like any ordinary citizen, but the lawyer is not required to reveal the fraud.
  • Opinion No. 80-5
    Summary: A law firm may, consistent with Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:22, distribute to clients a brochure describing its background, the background of its attorneys, and the nature of its practice.
  • Opinion No. 80-4
    Summary: Where a court-appointed attorney for a patient in an involuntary commitment proceeding is told by the client that she no longer wants the attorney to represent her, the attorney must bring the client's statement to the court's attention but may not withdraw from the representation unless directed to do so by the court. In addition, the attorney (a) cannot suggest to a third person that a guardian be appointed for the client, (b) cannot initiate guardianship proceedings against the client, but must represent the client and her interests in any such proceedings which might be brought, and (c) where the client has executed a consent to voluntary commitment under circumstances which the attorney feels give rise to grave doubts about its voluntariness, the attorney must challenge the validity of the client's consent.
  • Opinion No. 80-3
    Summary: In the course of arbitration before a non-lawyer arbitrator, an attorney specifically relied upon a line of federal cases which, after the filing of a brief but before a conclusion to the arbitration, was effectively overruled by a decision of the Supreme Court. The attorney must disclose the existence of that decision to the arbitrator regardless of opposing counsel's and the client's sentiments concerning disclosure and despite the fact that the matter in arbitration is arguably distinguishable on its facts from the Supreme Court case.
  • Opinion No. 80-2
    Summary: If two defendants in a civil rights action (a city and one of its police officers) have differing interests, the same lawyer may not represent both, even if both clients consent, after full disclosure. When the parties' interest in the litigation is the same, however, one lawyer may represent both, if they consent after full disclosure.
  • Opinion No. 80-1
    Summary: As part of a clinical program, a law student certified to appear before courts pursuant to Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:11 may under certain circumstances represent an indigent defendant against a prosecution by the commonwealth in one county at the same time that he is prosecuting a criminal case on behalf of the commonwealth in another county. The dual representation is proper only if all parties concerned give their consent and if other sources of representation, apart from the student defender program, are available to an indigent defendant who does not wish to consent.
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