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Ethics Advisory Opinions
UPON THE REQUEST OF A MEMBER OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA BAR, THE ETHICS ADVISORY COMMITTEE HAS RENDERED THIS OPINION ON THE ETHICAL PROPRIETY OF THE INQUIRER’S CONTEMPLATED CONDUCT. THIS COMMITTEE HAS NO DISCIPLINARY AUTHORITY. LAWYER DISCIPLINE IS ADMINISTERED SOLELY BY THE SOUTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT THROUGH ITS COMMISSION ON LAWYER CONDUCT.

Ethics Advisory Opinion 96-11Attorney A desires to share offices with a member of another profession or occupation. Attorney A and the member of the other profession will make it clear to the public that they do not offer the same service or services, with each having their own letterhead and separate telephone number. Attorney A would also like to share a secretary with the person in the other profession.

Questions:
1. Can a practicing attorney share offices with another profession?
2. Can a practicing attorney who shares offices with another profession share the use of a secretary?

Opinion:
Sharing an office with another profession does not per se violate Rule 407. However, Rule 1.6(a) mandates and the Supreme Court of South Carolina has recognized the necessity of confidentiality within the attorney-client relationship. The lawyer should recognize that the sharing of offices and a secretary creates a potential for violation of Rule 1.6 and should take reasonable measures to prevent such a violation from occurring. A lawyer must supervise the work of the office staff and is responsible for ensuring that employees do not violate ethical duties of the lawyer. Rule 5.3. See also Florida Bar v. Wolding, 579 So. 2d 736 (Fla. 1991) (lawyer sharing offices with title insurance company).