September 15, 1972
Ethics Opinon 1972-13
SUBJECT: PAYMENT FOR SERVICES WITH CREDIT CARDS
Is it proper for attorneys to utilize charge cards in payments for their services?
Such activity presents no ethical problem.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
A number of books on legal ethics, the index to legal periodicals and the 1970 Digest of Opinions of the Bar Association Ethics Committee have been examined, but nothing has appeared in print on the problem, and there have been no rulings on the question by the Ethics Committee. A number of telephone calls were made to local banks regarding this issue.
Most of the banks contacted refused to establish such accounts for attorneys as a business decision and not as the result of any ethical problem that they have discovered. One local bank, United States National, has already set up a number of firms in San Diego. When one of their senior representatives was asked whether any research had been done in respect to the ethical question, he answered that the matter had not entered into their minds at the time that they set up their first attorney.
Existing opinions dealing with peripheral issues and the canons do not appear to be in conflict with allowing attorneys to utilize charge card systems. When one considers the prevalent use of these cards by the public, it would appear that if there were any ethical questions they would have appeared by this time in one of the rulings.
This opinion is advisory only. It is not binding upon the State Bar, the Board of Governors, its agents or employees.
EDITOR'S NOTE: There have been some recent developments as to the Rules regarding use of credit cards. The Board of Governors of the State Bar issued a policy statement in the STATE BAR REPORTS in February 1975 which stated that they do not oppose the use of credit cards for the payment of legal fees and expenses, provided that provisions of the State Bar Act and Rules of Professional Conduct are fully and completely observed. The Statement listed those areas which should be given particular attention. Also see A.B.A. Formal Opinion No. 338 which reaches a similar conclusion.
Disclaimer: This opinion was issued by the Legal Ethics Committee of the San Diego County Bar Association. It is advisory only and is not binding upon any member of the SDCBA, any other member of the State Bar of California, the State Bar of California or its Board of Governors, or any persons or tribunals charged with regulatory responsibilities. The SDCBA, its officers, directors, agents, and the Legal Ethics Committee members assume no responsibility or liability in rendering this opinion.