Subsequent to the issuance of Formal Ethics Opinion 80-F-3, inquiry is made concerning the propriety of an attorney participating in a trade exchange association or barter group wherein a fee or membership charge is made by the association or group on each transaction.
The policies of the trade exchange or barter group have no provisions for the approval of trade transactions, no trade broker is assigned to assist with the transaction and there is no requirement that services are provided only after referral by the trade broker. The plan provides that the exchange association or barter group receives a percentage fee on each transaction as a membership charge.
Disciplinary Rule 2-103(C) provides that a lawyer shall not permit the recommendation or promote the use of his services except (1) upon referral services sponsored, operated or approved by a bar association; or (2) any of the organizations enumerated in DR 2-103(D)(1) through (4) which includes a legal aid or public defender office, military legal assistance office, and group legal service plans that meet specific standards.
The sharing of legal fees with a non-lawyer is prohibited. There is no prohibition against one-on-one barter or trade exchange by an attorney. The attorney should recognize the application of tax laws to such arrangements.
The attorney is ethically prohibited from participating in a trade exchange association or barter group wherein a fee or membership charge is made by the association or group on each transaction.*
This 12th day of April , 1984.
G. Wilson Horde
T. Maxfield Bahner
Charles T. Herndon III
APPROVED AND ADOPTED BY THE BOARD
* Ethics Opinion 445 of the Ethics Committee of the Oregon State Bar states that a lawyer who participates in a business exchange exposes himself to suspicion of income tax evasion which erodes public confidence in the legal profession. Ethics Opinion 81-11 of the New York City Bar Association states that a lawyer may join a barter group only if the group is sponsored or approved by the bar association.