NYSBA Ethics Opinion 27

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Professional Ethics Committee Opinion

Opinion #27 – 03/01/1966 (12-65)

Topic: Legal Research Service
Digest: Improper to offer legal research service to business corporations or non-lawyers, but no impropriety in offering such service to other lawyers
Canons: Former Canons 27, 45, 47

QUESTION

Two members of the New York Bar are considering the organization of a corporation by them or their employment by a corporation organized by others which will tender legal research service. The service would consist of receiving legal questions submitted by lawyers or business corporations, researching the questions and supplying the customer with the applicable cases and statutory law. They would express no opinion as to the answers to the questions or offer any advice thereon.They have asked (i) whether they may render this service to or through a corporation and (ii) whether and how they or the corporation may advertise the availability of the service.

OPINION

This Committee is of the opinion that it would not be professionally improper for the lawyers as individuals, or in partnership, to render the contemplated legal research service to other lawyers.  The committee does not pass on questions of unauthorized practice of law and renders no opinion as to whether Canon 47 of the canons of Professional Ethics would be violated if the service were offered through a corporation.  See Penal Law, Section 280; American Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics Opinion 273, and The Association of the Bar of the City of New York Opinion 778.
The service may properly be offered to other lawyers in conformance with Canon 45 of the Canons of Professional Ethics (see The Association of the Bar of the City of New York Opinions 851 and 705), but may not properly be rendered or offered to business corporations or other non-lawyers.  To do so would be regarded as improper solicitation of legal business in violation of Canon 27 of the Canons of Professional Ethics.

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