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Legal Memorandum: Lawyer's Non-legal Services in NY

Issue: What, if any, are the limits on a law firm, or one of its partners, from accepting a finder’s fee from one party on a deal in which the law firm, or one of its partners or employees, is legally representing the other?  If it is considered a conflict, can the parties offer informed consent to the representation?

Area of Law: Ethics & Professional Responsibility
Keywords: Non-legal services; Finder's fees
Jurisdiction: New York
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Disciplinary Rules of New York's Code of Professional Conduct DR 1-106, 5-105, DR 5-101(A)
Date: 07/01/2008

Disciplinary Rules of New York’s Code of Professional Conduct address such questions.  In DR 1-106, “Responsibilities Regarding Non-legal Services,” the extent of the Disciplinary Rules to the lawyer’s non-legal activities is set forth:

A. With respect to lawyers or law firms providing non-legal services to clients or other persons:

1. A lawyer or law firm that provides non-legal services to a person that are not distinct from legal services being provided to that person by the lawyer or law firm is subject to these Disciplinary Rules with respect to the provision of both legal and non-legal services.

2. A lawyer or law firm that provides non-legal services to a person that are distinct from legal services being provided to that person by the lawyer or law firm is subject to these Disciplinary Rules with respect to the nonlegal services if the person receiving the services could reasonably believe that the non-legal services are the subject of an attorney-client relationship.

3. A lawyer or law firm that is an owner, controlling party or agent of, or that is otherwise affiliated with, an entity that the lawyer or law firm knows to be providing non-legal services to a person is subject to these Disciplinary Rules with respect to the non-legal services if the person receiving the services could reasonably believe that the non-legal services are the subject of an attorney-client relationship.

4. For purposes of DR 1-106 [1200.5-b](A)(2) […]

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