NUMBER 399 1951
Question. In your answer in Opinion 398, you expressed the opinion that an individual who is both a C.P.A. and a lawyer, and who has formed a partnership with a layman for the practice of public accounting, may not conduct his independent law practice from the same office in which he practices accounting.
I would like to propose a further question: If the layman mentioned above was a C.P.A. and a member of a professional society, namely the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, and he was thereby subject to the rules of ethics and professional conduct of that society, would your answer to the above be the same? I would like to point out that the rules of professional conduct and ethics of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants are in many aspects, substantially the same as the Canons of Ethics for the legal profession.
An example of the similarities between the rules of C.P.A.’s who are members of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Canons of Ethics of the members of the New York Bar is as follows:
Canons of Professional Ethics of the New York Bar Association.
Canon 27; Advertising, Direct or Indirect. The customary use of simple professional cards is permissible. Publication in approved law lists, etc.
Handbook of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants Section 4, Article XVIII, Rules of Professional Conduct.
Rule 9; A member shall not directly or indirectly solicit clients by circular, advertisements, or by personal communication or interview not warranted by existing personal relations. However, a member may furnish service to those who request it.
Rule 10: A member shall not advertise his professional attainments or services. The publication of what is technically known as a card is restricted to an announcement of the name, title (C.P.A. member of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants or other professional affiliation or designation), class of service, and address of the person or firm, issued in connection with a change of address or personnel, and shall not exceed two columns in width and three inches in depth if appearing in a newspaper, and not exceed one-quarter of a page if appearing in a magazine or similar publication. This rule shall not be construed to prohibit the dignified dissemination by letter, or by printed article, of impersonal information of an educational character without solicitation of professional practice.
In addition to the foregoing, there are many other rules contained in this handbook which are almost identical in substance to those to be found in the Canons of Ethics of the legal profession.
Answer. Since the certified public accountant is not a lawyer, we think the rule of Opinion 398 is applicable, and that the result is not altered by the facts that the accountant is a member of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants and that the Society has its own rules of professional ethics, one of which is similar to our Canon 27 with respect to solicitation.
The certified public accountant is not a lawyer and, therefore, his conduct is not subject to investigation and review by the same tribunal or adjudged in accordance with the same standards, and he is not subject to the same discipline as would be applicable to lawyers.