85-F-103 - Law Firm allowing non-lawyer to use address

 

BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE

FORMAL ETHICS OPINION 85-F-103


Inquiry is made concerning the propriety of a law firm allowing a non-lawyer to use its mailing address; and, allowing an employee of the firm to answer a separate telephone installed in its office listed to a non-lawyer.

One of the partners of the law firm spends a large portion of his time in a metropolitan European city and has established a personal relationship with a non-lawyer. They share an interest in the areas of corporate and computer fraud, and are currently co-authoring a book on fraud in financial institutions.

The non-lawyer desires a presence in this country and the law firm partner desires working facilities while in the foreign city. They desire an agreement whereby the non-lawyer will
provide office space for the law firm partner and the law firm will provide the non-lawyer a presence in this country. The law firm address would be used by the non-lawyer for all mail originating in the United States. There will be no representation that the law firm is affiliated with the non-lawyer. The firm's name will not be revealed to individuals and/or organizations sending mail to the non-lawyer. The non-lawyer would be merely making use of the firm's street address and zip code.

A telephone line will be installed in the name of the non-lawyer. Incoming calls on the line will be answered in the name of the non-lawyer. The law firm's name would not be mentioned or revealed to the caller. The information received from the caller would then be forwarded to the non-lawyer.

The law firm would not be associated with the non-lawyer in any business ventures. The firm would merely be providing the service of answering the telephone and taking messages, and receiving mail.

Canon 3 of the Code of Professional Responsibility states that a lawyer should assist in preventing the unauthorized practice of law. There appears to be no other provisions of the Code even remotely impacting on the factual circumstances under consideration.

The non-lawyer will not be engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Therefore, the law firm would not be engaged in aiding the unauthorized practice of law.

There is no impropriety, in this instance, in the law firm allowing the non-lawyer to use its mailing address; and, no impropriety in the use of a separate telephone line answered by an
employee of the firm as proposed herein.

This 16th day of December, 1985.

ETHICS COMMITTEE:

Henry H. Hancock
Edwin C. Townsend
W. J. Flippin

APPROVED AND ADOPTED BY THE BOARD