Note that the Rules of Professional Conduct were substantially revised in 2006. The language and citations in any Advisory Opinion issued prior to this date may not be consistent with the current rules.
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|Opinion Number||Year Issued||RPC||Subject||Opinion
||1999||RPC 1.2; 1.6; 1.7; 5.4(c); 7.1; 7.2||
Lawyer provides free estate planning legal services to organization's members; organization suggests members use lawyer's services to donate to organization
The inquiry concerns the ethical considerations where an organization sponsors a lawyer, who will provide free legal services to organization members in will preparation and estate planning matters. The sponsor also plans to advertise in its own publication the availability of the lawyer to provide free legal services, including a statement that the member-client could use the opportunity to create a testamentary gift to the organization.
The committee opines that you may provide free legal services to your clients. The clients may donate to the organization but the donation must be totally voluntary. Your attention is directed to RPC 1.7 with regard to your independent judgment and to RPC 5.4(c), particularly as it may relate to any bequests your clients may make to the organization. You will also need to comply with RPC 1.6 maintaining confidentiality of your client’s confidences and secrets since these clients all belong to the organization and the organization is not your client as you describe your role. All advertising must comply with RPC 7.1 and 7.2.
The inquiring lawyer acknowledges that there may be situations in which the client needs additional services stemming from those he is providing free in the program. RPC 1.2 allows a lawyer to limit the objectives of representation if the client consents after
consultation. At the inception of the relationship, it is incumbent upon the lawyer to make clear to the member-client what is specifically included in the free legal service and what later may be fee generating.