Opinion #56 – 03/31/1967 (9-67)
adverse interests, existing clients, corporation, intermediary, law practice, legal services
Digest: Lawyer may not be retained by corporation to represent third party chiropractors
Canon: Former Canon 35
A corporation is engaged in handling personal injury and malpractice claims for chiropractor’s, receiving retainers from the chiropractors for which the corporation arranges for defense, adjustment and payment of the claims. The service is not provided as an incident to insurance coverage. A lawyer has been asked to defend some of these cases and asks whether it is proper for him to be retained by the corporation rather than by the chiropractor who is the defendant. He also asks whether the answer would be different if he handled only trial preparation or trial, and left settlement negotiations and payment to the corporation or the chiropractor himself.
Canon 35 of the Canons of Professional Ethics provides as follows:
“The professional services of a lawyer should not be controlled or exploited by any lay agency, personal or corporate, which intervenes between client and lawyer. A lawyer’s responsibilities and qualifications are individual. He should avoid all relations which direct the performance of his duties by or in the interest of such intermediary. A lawyer’s relation to his client should be personal, and the responsibility should be direct to the client.”A lawyer may accept employment from any organization, such as an association, club or trade organization, to render legal services in any matter in which the organization, as an entity, is interested, but this employment should not include the rendering of legal services to the members of such an organization in respect to their individual affairs.”As to both questions, it is this Committee’s opinion that it would not be ethically proper for the lawyer to represent these chiropractors unless he is retained directly by the chiropractors without intervention by the corporation. See the following opinions: Assn, of the Bar of the City of N.Y. No. 38 (association of tenants), No. 92 (hairdressers’ association) and No. 135 (nurses’ association), and Opinion No. 363 of the N.Y. County Lawyers’ Assn. (school teachers’ association).