Thursday, September 6, 2012

Attorney McGrath Comments to NC Bar on Proposed Ethics Opinions

The following letter was sent today from attorney Jason A. McGrath to the NC Bar Ethics Committee.

Regarding: Attorney Commentary Regarding Proposed 2012 Formal Ethics Opinion 6 and Proposed 2012 Formal Ethics Opinion 8  

Dear NC State Bar Ethics Committee: 

By way of background, I am a NC licensed, Charlotte-based lawyer and have been practicing law since 1996. I am licensed in three (3) states and in federal court, am a member of the American Bar Association’s E-Lawyering Task Force, and was one of the first practitioners in North Carolina to incorporate a virtual law practice in conjunction with a traditional practice.  I have a particular interest in the issues addressed in these two proposed FEOs.  I write to offer commentary with regard to the above named proposed Formal Ethics Opinions.  As always, thank you for considering this input. 

Proposed 2012 FEO 6: Use of Leased Timeshared Office Address or Post Office Address on Letterhead and Advertising 

I would ask the Bar to consider clarifying a potential inconsistency between two of the paragraphs under Inquiry and Opinion #1.  The third paragraph indicates that it would be misleading for a law firm to use such an address to infer that the law firm has an address or a lawyer located in that community if that is not the case on an ongoing basis.  The last paragraph under Opinion #1 implies that this may not be misleading as long as the disclosure is made that the law firm’s presence at the address is “by appointment only” or something similar.  By my reading of the current language, I am left with a great deal of uncertainty. 

I think that the intent is to allow a law firm without a constant presence in a community to still use an address in that community as long as the same is disclosed to be “by appointment only” or something similar (and, obviously, as long as the information conveyed is, in fact, true and not misleading).  If this is, in fact, the intent, then I completely agree with the Bar’s intent, and would respectfully suggest that the Opinion be clarified. 

With regard to Inquiry and Opinion #2, I would respectfully suggest that some clarifications be made to bring it into accord with the final language included in Inquiry and Opinion #1.  For example, if an attorney lives in Raleigh, would it be a problem for that attorney to have a post office box in Durham listed as an office address?  If the post office box is not in the same municipality in which the lawyer does the bulk of the lawyer’s actual work, must some sort of additional disclosure be made, similar to the spirit of the disclosure discussed with regard to Inquiry and Opinion #1?  

Proposed 2012 FEO 8: Lawyer’s Acceptance of Recommendations on Professional Networking Website 

I appreciate the practical and realistic approach that the North Carolina Bar seems to have taken toward the advances in technology, including communications, which are an inextricable part of our society today.  I believe that proposed 2012 FEO 8 is well written and applaud its brevity. 



                                                                                                Jason A. McGrath, Esq.