Opinion 88-32
(October 1988)

You have asked us to review an arrangement whereby you will no longer be a partner in a law firm but will remain as "Special Counsel" for the purpose of handling family law matters for clients of that firm. Specifically, you have asked us whether it is proper to list you as co-counsel on pleadings, whether the content of your proposed announcement is appropriate, and whether the terms of your written fee agreement are proper.

In general, we believe that it is permissible to have your own practice while being in "Of Counsel" position with a firm. Of course, you cannot be a partner or regularly-employed associate with the firm.

In your new role, you must be assiduous to avoid conflict of interest problems between the firm and your private practice (Rule 1.7). Furthermore, you must be careful not to reveal confidential information (Rule 1.6).

Your appearance as co-counsel with the firm on pleadings is permissible. Furthermore, it is appropriate, in our view, to announce that you have begun solo practice, and are also "Special Counsel" to the named firm "for the purpose of handling family law matters."

The fee agreement you asked us to review engages the firm and otherwise contains customary provisions in family law matters. In addition, there is a clause noting that you are designated as "Special Counsel" to the firm, will be actively representing the client, and will be sharing the legal fees with the firm. The sentence stating that the client will never be charged more than the actual time billed by you and attorneys of the firm helps assure the client that Rule 1.5(e)(2) will not be violated. In other respects we find nothing impermissible in the agreement.
The Philadelphia Bar Association's Professional Guidance Committee provides, upon request, advice for lawyers facing or anticipating facing ethical dilemmas. Advice is based on the consideration of the facts of the particular inquirer's situation and the Rules of Professional Conduct as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Committee's opinions are advisory only and are based upon the facts set forth. The opinions are not binding upon the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. They carry only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.