July 01, 2013

When Do the Ethics Rules Apply to Lawyers Not Acting as Lawyers?

Thomas E. Spahn

As Americans’ average life expectancy increases and the economy continues to sputter, folks today seem to be working much longer than earlier generations. Lawyers face an additional set of issues. Career burnout seems to be increasing, and many law firms are ratcheting down the age at which their lawyers must retire (yet retiring lawyers must also avoid competing with their former firms if they want to receive retirement benefits).

Many have written about retirees’ so-called “encore careers,” and for lawyers some of those careers will be outside the law. For lawyers entering into a second, non-legal career, an obvious question presents itself: do the ethics rules apply to lawyers acting in a non-legal capacity? It can be useful to address the question in the context of lawyers’ day-to-day actions and in the context of professional discipline for misconduct unrelated to a lawyer’s legal role.

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