Advisory Opinion: 1184

Year Issued: 1988

RPC(s): RPC 5.4(a)

Subject: Division of fees with nonlawyers; employment as business consultant giving legal advice to clients of corporation


The Committee considered your inquiry concerning whether a lawyer could be employed as a business consultant for a private corporation and, on behalf of the employer, perform basic legal services such as drafting contracts and giving legal advice to clients of the corporation. The Committee understood that the lawyer would be paid a salary by the corporation, and that the clients would be billed by the corporation on an hourly rate. The Committee was of the opinion that if what the lawyer did constituted the practice of law, then such conduct would be prohibited by RPC 5.4(a) because it would constitute sharing legal fees with non-lawyers. The Committee cannot, however, give an opinion regarding the legal questions of what constitutes the practice of law.

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Advisory Opinions are provided for the education of the Bar and reflect the opinion of the Committee on Professional Ethics (CPE) or its predecessors. Advisory Opinions are provided pursuant to the authorization granted by the Board of Governors, but are not individually approved by the Board and do not reflect the official position of the Bar association. Laws other than the Washington State Rules of Professional Conduct may apply to the inquiry. The Committee's answer does not include or opine about any other applicable law other than the meaning of the Rules of Professional Conduct.