LEO: Attorney - Relationship with Financial  LE Op. 1003

 

Attorney - Relationship with Financial Advisor.

 

November 24, 1987

 

You state that a "financial advisor" who believes some of his clients

should consider bankruptcy is currently referring those clients to an

attorney for the filing of bankruptcy petitions. The "advisor" has

proposed that he obtain information from the clients concerning their

debts and assets, and also have a typist prepare the applicable forms. The

attorney would obtain the forms from the advisor, review the forms with

the client, again review the client's debt position, recommend a course of

action, file the forms and appear with the court proceedings. The advisor

would collect all fees from the client and forward them to the bankruptcy

attorney along with the other information the "advisor" received. You also

state that there would be no fee splitting although the attorney may

charge less than the normal fee for such clients, as much of the clerical

work would be done before the matter was turned over to the attorney. The "

financial advisor" would not in any way be affiliated with the attorney

and would be located some distance from his office.

 

You wish to know whether or not this arrangement is proper.

 

There is nothing within the Code of Professional Responsibility which

prohibits this arrangement.

 

The Committee, however, is concerned that the activity of the financial

advisor in filling out the "applicable forms" may constitute the

unauthorized practice of law. Disciplinary Rule 3-101(A) [ DR:3-101]

states that "a lawyer shall not aid a nonlawyer in the unauthorized

practice of law." Disciplinary Rule 3-104(A) [ DR:3-104] allows lawyers

to employ nonlawyers to perform delegated functions under the "direct

supervision" of a licensed attorney. Unless the forms are being filled out

by the nonlawyer personnel under the supervision of the lawyer, a Canon 3

problem could arise.

 

Committee Opinion November 24, 1987