Opinion 89-19
(July 1989)

The Inquirer has asked this Committee for an Opinion whether it violates any ethical rule for a lawyer who is a partner in one law firm also to be either a partner in or of counsel to another law firm. It is the opinion of the Committee that nothing in the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits such an arrangement.

The proposed arrangement may, however, likely complicate fulfillment by the lawyer of duties under a number of provisions of the Rules. He or she will be required to assure compliance--as to both firms--with the conflict of interest provisions of Rules 1.7, 1.9, and 1.10, as well as the requirements of Rule 7.5 relating to firm names and letterheads. The lawyer should also be aware of the application to the proposed arrangement of the provisions of Rule 7.1 prohibiting misleading communications about the lawyer or the lawyer's services. Moreover, the lawyer should consider whether adequate disclosure of the two-firm relationship is made to clients to comply with the consent requirement of Rule 1.6(a) for disclosure of confidential information. Finally, Rules 5.1 and 5.3 regarding the duty of a partner to supervise others in both firms should not be overlooked.

This opinion does not address other legal issues, such as liabilities, which may arise in the circumstances of the proposed arrangement.

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.