December 12, 2013 Articles

The Ethics of Space Sharing

By Emily L. Bloedel

Space-sharing arrangements, in which attorneys enter into a lease to share office space but remain separate firms, provide numerous benefits. Space sharing allows attorneys to share resources, such as receptionists, conference rooms, copiers, and other equipment. It allows attorneys to split operating costs. Space sharing also increases collegiality among lawyers while allowing them to retain financial independence and control.

However, space sharing presents a number of ethical pitfalls that attorneys need to be wary of, including the risk of being perceived as one firm, maintaining confidentiality and evidentiary privileges, and sharing client confidences without client consent. If the attorneys involved in an office-sharing arrangement hold themselves out to the public as a firm or conduct themselves as a firm, they must engage in a conflict-of-interest analysis with every potential client. If the attorneys involved in an office-sharing arrangement give the impression of being one firm, even unintentionally, they could be disqualified from representation in some cases under the doctrine of imputed disqualification.

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