Employment of a Secretary Who is Also a Real Estate Broker
Opinion rules that a lawyer may close a real estate transaction brokered by a real estate firm which employs the attorney's secretary as a part-time real estate broker.
May Attorney X close a real property transaction brokered by a real estate firm which employs the attorney's secretary as a part-time real estate broker?
Yes. In the situation described in the inquiry, the lawyer would be obliged to consider whether the exercise of his independent, professional judgment on behalf of his clients, the lender and the broker, would be "materially impaired" by his desire to advance his secretary's interests or his desire to encourage future referrals. Rule 5.1(b). If upon analysis it appears that the attorney's judgment might be so compromised, perhaps because the secretary is a valued friend who stands to gain a valuable commission upon the completion of the transaction, the conflict of interest would be disqualifying unless the lawyer reasonably believed that his representation of his clients would not be adversely affected and both clients consented to the lawyer's participation after a full disclosure of all risks involved.
It would, of course, be extremely improper for an attorney in this situation to attempt to encourage referrals from the real estate firm by offering financial incentives to his secretary. Rule 2.2(c).