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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9-Government Lawyer Conflicts

16-Lawyer's Personal Interests

29-Advancing Fees and Costs


Lawyers in a public defender's office may provide nominal gifts to indigent clients for the purchase of personal items or food, as long as such "occasional de minimus humanitarian gifts" do not affect the lawyer's independent judgment (such as when the lawyers are "trying to persuade some of these clients to accept plea agreements to which the clients are initially resistant.") The majority of states totally prohibit such "financial assistance" under Rule 1.8(e). Such minor gifts do not run afoul of Rule 1.8(a), because they are gifts and do not constitute "business transactions" with the client. Although the rules "do not directly regulate nonattorneys," lawyers cannot do indirectly through a staff person what they cannot do directly -- although in this case the lawyer's staff may likewise provide such nominal humanitarian gifts to indigent clients.

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn