These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
 
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  Topic: 53 - Office Sharing with Non-Lawyers
LEO NumTopicsSummaryDate
1341

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13-Marketing - Miscellaneous

53-Office Sharing with Non-Lawyers

55-Firm Names and Letterhead

57-In-House Lawyers

71-Representing Corporations

A firm's letterhead may include a retired former partner's name as long as the former partner is accurately characterized. Corporate counsel must disclose the name of the corporate employer on letterhead and business cards. If a lawyer operates a private law practice out of a company's office, there must be separate office space, separate sign, separate files and a separate telephone listing. 4/20/1990
1658

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13-Marketing - Miscellaneous

16-Lawyer's Personal Interests

31-Protecting and Disclosing Confidences and Secrets

32-Lawyers Acting in Other Roles (Miscellaneous)

38-Fee Splitting

50-Lawyer-Owned Businesses

53-Office Sharing with Non-Lawyers

A law firm may establish a non-legal consulting firm (to provide human resource advice) and share common directors, use similar logos and letterheads, share overhead expenses (such as secretarial support, library resources and lobby space), engage in joint marketing and refer clients to each other, as long as: the public would not be confused by any advertising; the joint marketing does not result in any misperceptions; the firms avoid sharing any confidential client information; the firms do not split fees or pay one another a referral fee; the firms advise their clients of other available referral options; the firms adopt "adequate conflicts screening procedures"; any lawyers involved in the consulting firm "comply at all times with applicable rules of the Code of Professional Responsibility, whether or not the attorney is acting in a professional capacity as a lawyer." 12/6/1995
0192

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53-Office Sharing with Non-Lawyers

A law firm office may share a common entrance with an insurance agency. 8/10/1964
1317

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32-Lawyers Acting in Other Roles (Miscellaneous)

53-Office Sharing with Non-Lawyers

A lawyer may conduct a legal practice out of a non-legal business office if there is a proper separation of the two functions and the public is not misled. The lawyer may provide non-legal services to clients with consent after full disclosure. 1/18/1990
0316

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53-Office Sharing with Non-Lawyers

A lawyer may share a common entrance, reception area, equipment and secretarial service with a non-lawyer if they maintain separate offices and do not share expenses or income. 4/13/1982
0754

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53-Office Sharing with Non-Lawyers

A lawyer may share offices with a corporate client as long as the signage, files, telephone listings and similar public representations are kept separate. 1/13/1986
1405

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16-Lawyer's Personal Interests

50-Lawyer-Owned Businesses

53-Office Sharing with Non-Lawyers

58-Real Estate Lawyers

82-Advertising

A title insurance company owned by a lawyer and sharing office space with the lawyer's firm may not pay for the firm's salaries or advertisements. [This LEO was further explained in LEO 1564.] 9/17/1991
1872

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31-Protecting and Disclosing Confidences and Secrets

45-Law Firms - Miscellaneous

53-Office Sharing with Non-Lawyers

82-Advertising

Lawyers must be mindful of their confidentiality, supervision and marketing responsibilities, among other things, if they practice "virtually," or if they combine a virtual practice with an "executive office suite" for meetings and other activities requiring a physical office. Lawyers sharing a space with nonlawyers must take reasonable steps to protect client confidences. Lawyers must also take reasonable steps to protect their clients' confidential information when dealing with technology, including examining "the third party provider's use of technology and terms of service" before using such provider's cloud computing or other services (lawyers unable to assess these factors on their own "will have to consult with someone qualified to make that determination"). Lawyer might also have an obligation to explain to their clients the risk of using certain methods of communication and storage. A lawyer not physically present with colleagues and staff must nevertheless comply with the normal duties of supervising subordinate lawyers and nonlawyers. Lawyers may not use misleading marketing by listing as an office a place where the lawyer does not actually practice (analyzing the situation using such factors as the frequency with which the lawyer uses the space, whether nonlawyers also use the space, signage, etc.). Under the current Virginia regulations (which are the subject of proposed amendments), lawyers admitted by motion to practice in Virginia must maintain an office where they can see clients (which does not include a "virtual office or shared occupancy arrangements").3/29/2013

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn