You have presented a hypothetical situation in which a law firm
wishes to hire an attorney as an associate to make court
appearances for the firm within a circumscribed geographical area. 
The associate attorney will maintain a separate practice and
office, but will also handle cases as an employee of the law firm
and be shown on the firm's letterhead as an associate.  The
attorney will be paid as other associates through the general
payroll fund.

Under the facts you have presented, you have asked the committee to
opine as to the propriety of hiring an associate who also maintains
a separate law practice.

The appropriate and controlling disciplinary rules relative to your
inquiry are DRs 2-101(A) and 2-102(B) which require that public
communications such as advertising, letterhead, professional
notices, etc. not contain statements or claims that are false,
fraudulent, deceptive or misleading; DR 4-101 requiring protection
of confidences and secrets; and DR 5-105 addressing multiple
clients with conflicting interests.

The committee has previously opined that there is no prohibition
against an attorney having dual separate law practices.  See LEOs
#226 and 328 (in house counsel to corporation or insurance company
may maintain separate office for private practice); LEO #802
(attorney licensed in Virginia may simultaneously be a member of
two or more organizations for the practice of law.

In LEO #1293 the committee opined that it is ethically permissible
for an attorney to be employed as an associate by two or more law
firms or professional corporations.  The committee warned, however,
that the associate and employer/law firm must be mindful of their
obligations to avoid the possibility of misleading anyone as to the
activities engaged in at both firms; and they must avoid any
activity or relationship which would create a conflict of interest. 
In addition to avoiding the representation of clients with
conflicting interests, the associate must adhere to the
requirements of Canon 4 for safeguarding confidences and secrets of
the clients of each law firm. 

The committee has previously opined, under similar facts, that a
firm may have as an associate an attorney who shares office space
in the same building as the firm, but maintains a separate practice
as well.  See Legal Ethics Opinion No. 1532.  

In the facts you present, the committee believes it is ethically
permissible for the associate's name to be listed as such on the
law firm's letterhead or other public communications, assuming that
it is an accurate statement of that lawyer's status or relationship
with the law firm.  DR 2-101(A) and DR 2-102(A); LEO #1293, supra. 
However, the law firm's stationery should disclose the address of
the associate's office, to avoid the possibility of misleading the
public regarding the associate's relationship with the law firm. 
DR 2-102(A).    

The committee cautions that the arrangement described in your
hypothetical cannot be used to avoid the provisions in DR 2-105(D)
concerning fee splitting.

[DRs 2-101, 2-102, 4-101, 5-105; LEOs 226, 328, 802, 1293, 1532]

Committee Opinion
January 23, 1996