Advisory Opinion: 1551

Year Issued: 1993

RPC(s): RPC 2.2; 7.1(a); 8.4(c)

Subject: Use of assumed name for fee collection; lawyer acting as mediator as cover for joint representation in dissolution


First, the Committee reviewed your inquiry concerning fee collections. [The lawyer proposed sending notices to delinquent clients under the names "Legal Audit Services" and "Bureau of Legal Economics."] The Committee was of the opinion that the use of "Legal Audit Services" or "Bureau of Legal Economics" would violate RPC 7.1(a) and/or RPC 8.4(c). Further, while the Committee could render no opinion regarding any legal issues, there was some question that the use of such fictitious names might violate laws regarding debt collection in Washington.

Second, as to your inquiry concerning a lawyer acting as a mediator, the Committee was of the opinion that the question of the attorney/client relationship is governed by the substance of the relationship and not the form. The Committee was of the opinion that based upon the facts presented, this was an attempt to use mediation as a cover for improper joint representation of parties in a marriage dissolution proceeding.

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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.