A lawyer whose practice consists principally of Workmen’s Compensation and Social Security Disability claims maintains his office in Manhattan. He asks if it would be proper for him to rent space in a Professional Building in another borough for use on Saturdays as an annex to his Manhattan office, in order to be available to his clients in the area and to local residents who may require legal services? The Professional Building is presently tenanted entirely by doctors, most of whom treat Workmen’s Compensation and Social Security Disability claims, but the lawyer states that its concept is to provide the neighborhood with a “rounded professional availability”, including lawyers, doctors, accountants, insurance brokers and other professionals. The lawyer would furnish and be the sole occupant of his office.
There is no question but that a lawyer may have an office at any location suitable for his work. However, for a lawyer who specializes in Workmen’s Compensation claims and Social Security Disability claims to open an office in a Professional Building tenanted entirely by doctors, most of whom treat patients having Workmen’s Compensation claims and Social Security Disability claims, suggests that a principal factor in the choice of the office was to secure referrals. “Obviously, a lawyer should not contact a non-client, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of being retained to represent him for compensation” EC 2-3. Not only must a lawyer refrain from such solicitation, but he must strive scrupulously to avoid even the appearance of professional impropriety. Canon 9, EC 9-6. In view of the stated plan to convert the building’s tenancy to one providing a “rounded professional availability”, including lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers and other professionals, and accepting the inquiring lawyer’s explanation that he desires the location in order to be near his clients in the neighborhood, it cannot be said that his selection of the office space would in itself necessarily be improper.
Nevertheless, the lawyer should recognize the delicacy of his situation and should exercise great caution to avoid even the appearance that his office is being used as a cloak for indirect solicitation of legal business. N.Y. County 527 (1965); ABA Inf 630 (1963) and 791 (1964); see N.Y. State 206 (1971).
June 13, 1974