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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32-Lawyers Acting in Other Roles (Miscellaneous)

50-Lawyer-Owned Businesses

A lawyer who co-owns (with other non-lawyers) a lobbying firm must comply with certain ethics rules (such as the prohibition on criminal or wrongful conduct), although not rules that apply only when a lawyer is "representing a client," such as the ex parte contact rule. This lawyer's references to his expertise as a lawyer, etc. could create confusion about whether he is providing legal advice. Lawyers providing such services have "an affirmative duty to clarify the boundaries of the business relationship," including whether any legal services are included. Lawyers not clarifying their role could find themselves bound by the confidentiality and conflicts rules governing lawyers representing clients although a lawyer providing legal services through a lobbying firm could be guilty of a misdemeanor for unauthorized practice of law. If this lawyer was simultaneously engaged in a law practice, the lawyer's "responsibilities to . . . a third person" (client of the lobbying firm) might prevent the lawyer from representing clients adverse to lobbying firm clients (a disqualification which would be imputed to all lawyers in the lawyer's law firm). The ethics rules governing conflicts do not apply to a lawyer/lobbyist's pure lobbying work. For instance, a lawyer who is acting only as a lobbyist can lobby against a former lobbying client for whom the lawyer previously lobbied. If the lawyer must follow the conflicts rules because a lobbying client reasonably believes that the lawyer is supplying legal advice (and thus must comply with the conflicts rules), the individual lawyer's disqualification would not be imputed to the entire lobbying firm (because it is not a law firm).

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn