Hi! Thanks for taking the time to take a look at my question! I am a new lawyer in California (fingers crossed as I should receive notification of my admittance to the bar I took back in July, 2012 any day now), and am looking into my options to start my career. I was approached by a company that assists clients with immigration issues. They had expressed interest in forming a contractual agreement in which I would work as an independent contractor and advise their clients regarding all legal issues and represent these clients in court if need be; i would serve no other function within the company as would be defined in the contractual agreement. Myself, and myself alone would receive payment for the legal services I provided the clients and they would pay the company separately for all non-legal services they receive. I would have desk and private office space within the physical office building of the company I would be contracted with and would pay rent for that office space. I would have my own secure email address, fax line, telephone, and secured file storage. I would only use that office space when working with clients through this contracted arrangement and all other clients would met at a separate location, the home office of my actual practice. Though I realize that this is not a fully detailed description of the arrangement and such, I was hoping I might receive some guidance as to whether this violates any noticeable rules within the California Rules of Professional Conduct. I was particularly concerned as to if this might violate issues regarding forming a partnership with a non-lawyer, fee-splitting with a non-lawyer, issues with confidentiality, or conflict of interest issues. Thanks so much for your time. As I am just starting out as a lawyer I am trying to be extra careful as to avoid any issues that might bring me under the scrutiny of the bar association.
Jonathan A. Garza
2 Answers from Attorneys
Call the state bar ethics hotline and discuss it with them.
You can call the hotline, and they will generally give you a list of materials to research and review. That may contain the Rules of Professional Conduct, specific cases, and ethics opinions.
You are going to have to make the determination, based on your evaluation of the facts, whether the situation triggers the issues that you have identified. You have spotted the issues, but will need to go over them with factual detail.