The Ethics of Legal Office Sharing Arrangements or Subleasing

4 Simple Tips to Keeping it Clean:

The benefits of legal office sharing arrangements or subleasing are highly valuable: Money savings, camaraderie, and availability of professional consultation. The legal ethics are highly important, yet simple. Here are four simple tips for keeping your legal office sharing arrangement or subleasing in line with your state's ethics rules.

1. Maintain Appearance of Professional Independence. Make it crystal clear to the public that you are independent lawyers, not a firm. Never imply otherwise on your letterhead, business cards, office signage, and directory listings; when answering the phone; or in fee agreement. (ABA Model Rule 7.5) For example, the receptionist should answer the telephone, "Law Offices," not "Smith and Jones Law Offices." And, your letterhead should read, "Smith Law Office" while your office mate's letterhead should read, "Jones Law Office," not "Smith and Jones Law Offices." (Example of state ethics rule: Georgia Rule 7.5)

2. Maintain Absolute Confidentiality. Keep your client files absolutely confidential. This means separate staff, files, computers, telephones, and fax. Confidences must not be shared. For example, you can share a receptionist if she does not have access to your client information. (Example of state ethics rule: Georgia Rule 1.6)

3. Avoid Even the Appearance of Conflict. Do not contemporaneously represent clients with adverse interests to those of your office mates. (ABA Model Rule 1.10) For example, if your office mate is representing adoptive parents in an adoption, don't represent the birth mother. Just keep it clean. (Example of state ethics rule: Georgia Rule 1.7)

4. You Can Share Fees. Follow normal co-counsel and fee sharing ethics rules (ABA Model Rule 1.5). Either allocate fees based on services provided or one lawyer assumes responsibility for the case and the client consents to fee sharing in writing. For example, Lawyer Smith does 40% of the legal work and receives 40% of the legal fees and Lawyer Jones does 60% of the legal work and receives 60% of the legal fees. (For example of states ethics rule: Georgia Rule 1.5) These 4 tips for keeping it clean in legal office sharing arrangements or subleasing are meant to raise the red flag of awareness. Be sure to consult your state's ethics rules for specific guidance and examples specific to your state for your legal office sharing arrangement or subleasing.

Atlanta Lenders and Developers Ignored Warning Signs of Recession

The amount of available office space in Atlanta over the past five years has increased by nearly 6%. As other cities in the country braced for the recession, Atlanta's lenders and developers ignored the warning signs and remained optimistic about the technology sector. Thinking that technology would continue to grow, many lenders eased up on financing terms, which caused some real estate developers to enter into risky projects. The resulting construction boom added an additional 3.6 million square feet of commercial space to the Atlanta market between 2008 and 2010. Even in the city's most affluent areas, the commercial real estate market historically has only been able to absorb between 200,000 and 300,000 square feet of additional space per year.

Further complicating the commercial real estate market, the unemployment rate in the city had hit 10% by the fourth quarter of 2010. Companies were downsizing the workforce and the space needed to operate. While analysts agree that a dramatic improvement in Atlanta's employment rate could help remedy the situation, forecasts suggest that a return to pre-recession employment may only occur after 2014. But even a return to pre-recession employment may not help much since the city's vacancy rate was already on the rise before the recession hit. As a result, employment figures would have to rebound well beyond pre-recession figures to positively impact the commercial market. As supply outstrips demand, landlords desperate to attract tenants are offering space at a significant discount. Rents are so depressed that it may take until 2016 for revenue to rebound. In the meantime, with less income generated, developers and landlords are hard pressed to meet their financial obligations. The result is an increase in the number of distressed properties, and ultimately, foreclosures. As of mid-2010, Atlanta led the country in seizures of real estate backed by securitized loans.

For a city used to leading the nation in relocations fueled by a growing economy, the cruel reverse of fortune is taking its toll. Between June 2009 and June 2010, Atlanta led the nation with the highest percent of real estate transactions involving distressed properties - 46 percent. In 2010, Elaine M. Russell created www.LawSpaceMatch.com, a service that matches lawyers seeking to sublet space with unoccupied office space at compatible law firms around the country. Elaine is a corporate and business attorney representing clients throughout Georgia. Elaine's office is located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. Notes: Taken from: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-09-14/atlanta-awash-in-empty-offices-struggles-to-recover-from-building-binge.html

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