Legal Ethics

Opinion Opens Door to MDP

A New Jersey ethics opinion gives a boost to law firms that invest in outside businesses.

The private opinion, made public in the July 2 edition of New Jersey Lawyer, according to the New Jersey Law Journal, says lawyers may refer clients to investment companies in which they have an ownership interest, receive a percentage of commissions for products sold, and prepare related documents.

The deal, however, must be put in writing and be fair and reasonable, and the client should be advised that outside legal counsel is advisable.

New Jersey lawyer says the June 15 opinion “seems to move toward a form of multidisciplinary practice the state supreme court has resisted.”

The idea troubles Wayne Positan, a former New Jersey State Bar Association, who says such arrangements are not always harmless. “You get into all kinds of cocked-up business relations with guys who are trying to make money, and there have to be boundaries,” he told the legal newspaper.

“What’s next? Are we going to have accountants be partners in law firms and have strategic alliances that raise questions of attorney-client privilege?”

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