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Lawyer's Presence at Residential Real Estate Closing

Adopted: October 19, 2001

Opinion rules that competent practice requires the physical presence of the lawyer at a residential real estate closing conference.

Inquiry:

In 99 Formal Ethics Opinion 13, the Ethics Committee of the North Carolina State Bar ruled that a lawyer may not permit a paralegal to close a residential real estate transaction but the paralegal may oversee the execution of closing documents outside the presence of the lawyer. May a lawyer close a residential real estate transaction without being physically present in the closing conference room if the lawyer remains in contact with the client and the lawyer's paralegal by telephone and is available, by phone, to answer the client's questions and to instruct and supervise the paralegal?

Opinion:

No. The lawyer must be physically present at the closing conference and may not be present through a surrogate such as a paralegal. See 99 Formal Ethics Opinion 13. This opinion establishes a bright line and removes any ambiguity about the requirements of 99 Formal Ethics Opinion 13.

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