Ethics Opinion 172

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Professional Ethics Committee Opinion

Opinion #172 – 11/06/1970 (54-70)

Modified by 416
Topic: Non-profit Association; Group Legal Services
Digest: Lawyer may not cooperate with religious association plan to furnish members legal services with respect to matters that are not reasonably related to the members’ relationship with the religious organization
Code: EC 2-7; DR 2-103 (D)

QUESTION

Is it proper for a lawyer to participate in a plan for supplying legal services by a non-profit religious organization to radio listeners in such matters as public investment opportunities, tax and estate planning, information concerning trusts, annuities and wills?

OPINION

This Committee held in N.Y. State 163 (1970) that a labor union may supply free legal services to its members in any area related to the members’ employment or their relations with their employers, including workmen’s compensation, industrial accidents, arbitration of labor grievances, health and accident claims arising from employment, seniority rights, company housing, etc. However, the Committee further held that such organization should not be permitted to supply such services in domestic relations, estate matters, home purchases and other legal matters having no connection with the union’s primary function of representing its members in its dealings with their employers.Because there is no reasonable relationship between the services of the non-profit religious organization and the legal services contemplated, it would be improper for a lawyer to cooperate with such group legal service activities.In addition, Wise, Legal Ethics, p. 217 (2d ed. 1970) provides that:”The lawyer who participates is in danger of violating the prohibitions of the canons against representing inconsistent interests, against solicitation, and against aiding in the unauthorized practice of law by laymen, as well as the proscription against permitting the intervention of laymen between himself and his client.”It does not matter whether the attorney is an independent practitioner or a full-time employee of the [institution].”

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