LEO: Divorce Mediation - Domestic LE Op. 516
Divorce Mediation/Domestic Relations/Family Law.
April 28, 1983
An attorney accepting compensation from a professional counselor service
which refers clients to an attorney for legal advice would not be a per se
ethical violation of the Virginia Code of Professional Responsibility.
However, an attorney, by entering into such an employment agreement, might
be violating in many situations the provisions of Canon 5 which require an
attorney to exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of a
client and the provisions of DR:5-107 requiring that an attorney avoid
the influence by others than the client.
Also, the provisions of Canon 9 state that an attorney should avoid even
the appearance of professional impropriety, and as such an attorney's
acceptance of compensation from a professional counselor service which
refers clients to an attorney for legal advice might be deemed to violate
Canon 9, even if the provisions of Canon 5 are not violated.
A disclosure by an attorney to a professional counselor service of the
purpose and length of time spent with a client on a particular problem
without the express informed consent of the client would violate the
provisions of DR:4-101.
In many cases, it would be improper for an attorney to attempt to provide
legal advice simultaneously to two potentially adverse parties in divorce
mediation, since often it would be virtually impossible to give such
advice in a completely non-partisan way.
However, where an attorney has undertaken to provide "legal information"
only, as opposed to "legal advice," the parties understand the distinction
between "legal information" and "legal advice" and have given their
informed consent for an attorney so to act, it may be appropriate in
certain circumstances for an attorney to provide legal information to both
parties, particularly, in uncomplicated and straightforward situations
where the parties are contemplating getting a non-contested divorce and
the marriage has been of short duration with little assets and no children
involved. Regardless of the situation, however, attorneys should be
advised to use great caution before agreeing to provide legal information
or advice to both parties, and should attorneys agree to do so, they
should be extremely careful to be as non-partisan as possible. [ DR:5-
105, EC:5-1, EC:5-21, EC:5-22 and EC:5-23, DR:4-101, DR:9-101
Virginia Code of Professional Responsibility]
Committee Opinion April 28, 1983
See also LE Op. 1368, and LE Op. 1374.