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Real Estate Brokerage Owned by Lawyers

Adopted: January 13, 1989

Opinion rules that attorneys that own stock in a real estate company may refer clients to the company if such would be in the client's best interest and there is full disclosure, and that such attorneys may not close transactions brokered by the real estate firm.

Inquiry #1:

A is the president and majority stockholder of XYZ Realty, Inc., a commercial real estate firm. B, C, and D are attorneys who are minority shareholders in XYZ, but who are not involved in management of the company.

May B, C, and D refer their legal clients to XYZ Realty, Inc., provided they disclose their status as shareholders in XYZ?

Opinion #1:

Yes, provided that in addition to disclosing their status as shareholders, Lawyers B, C, and D reasonably believe that dealing with XYZ Realty would be in the best interests of their clients. Rule 5.1 (b) (1) and (2).

Inquiry #2:

May B, C, and D's law firm close a real estate transaction brokered by XYZ Realty, Inc.?

Opinion #2:

No. B, C, and D's personal interest in having their realty firm receive its commission could conflict with client's desire to close only when his or her best interest would be served by so doing. This conflict could materially impair the judgment and loyalty of B, C, and D and other members of their firm. In such situations the risk to the client is so great that no lawyer can reasonably proceed, regardless of whether the client wishes to consent. Rule 5.1 (b) and Rule 5.11 (a).

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