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Office Sharing

Refer to the South Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct and opinions of the South Carolina Ethics Advisory Committee (such as SC EAO 96-11) to be sure you take all steps reasonably necessary to protect the confidentiality of client information

Sufficient indicia of "separateness." The impression created in the mind of the public is paramount. Separate signs for all lawyers are a must.

Have separate phone and fax numbers

Keep files, mail, faxes, e-mail, etc. separate. Confidential files should be locked up or access should be restricted.

Make sure your engagement letter with clients states clearly that you are not associated with any of the other lawyers in the office and that no confidential information will be shared with them. Make sure the other lawyer's engagement letter says the same.

Instruct clients to leave confidential messages with your employees or your voice mail only

If you share a high-speed Internet connection with other lawyers in the office, make sure that they are all taking proper security precautions. If a virus compromises one lawyer's computer, it can result in greatly reduced connection speed and even in termination of Internet service for everyone.

Never use a shared computer network with lawyers in other practices

Will the nature of your practice allow you to have a shared waiting room for clients?

Make sure stationery, business cards, your sign, etc., make it clear that you are not in a business relationship with another lawyer if that is not the case

If there is a shared receptionist, make sure she/he answers your phone with your name or your firm name only

  • Instruct the receptionist to not take messages from clients, but to forward them to your voice mail
  • Instruct the receptionist not to discuss your cases with anyone, including clients

Make sure that you and any employees you may have don't discuss clients' cases in public areas

Exchange insurance policies (liability) with the other lawyers

Notify your insurer of your situation and ask for advice on managing your risk

See How to Protect Client Confidences in a Shared Office Suite by Wells Anderson and Joseph M. Hartley, Law Practice Management magazine, March 2002. See also The Essentials of Office Sharing and Executive Suites, Chapter 17, Flying Solo in the Bar Lending Library or you can take a look at it online here.

See form Office Share Agreement in forms

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