October 2, 1974
Ethics Opinon 1974-18
SUBJECT: COMBINATION OF CAREERS
Prior to passing the Bar a law student has been working in the insurance field as an insurance agent. Upon passing the Bar and becoming licensed he proposes to retain his former employment status and combine it with a law career in the field of estate planning, pension and profit sharing, and business insurance. May he, as an attorney, ethically combine the two careers.
No. It would be improper for an attorney to engage in the selling of insurance while pursuing the practice of law.
The Committee on Professional Ethics and Grievances of the American Bar Association has considered questions concerning the combination of other careers with that of the law on several different occasions.
The Committee's views on this subject are reflected in Formal Opinion No. 272, which held that an attorney cannot carry on a public accounting practice while engaging in the practice of law; and Formal Opinion No. 299, in which they stated that a lawyer may not hold himself out as qualified to practice both professions concurrently.
In Informal Opinion No. 442, the Committee held that although it is not necessarily improper for an attorney engaged in the practice of law to be active in another field, the business must be of such a nature or conducted in such a manner as not to be inconsistent with the lawyer's responsibilities as a member of the Bar. Although selling insurance is not of itself the practice of law, the working relationship between the two fields is so broad as to have prompted the Committee in Informal Opinion No. 424 to state emphatically that it is improper for a practicing attorney to sell life insurance.
It may be considered that this view stems in part from the operation of Canon 27. Although no direct advertisement may be intended, the nature of the business proposed would necessarily seem to lead to indirect advertising which is also prohibited by the scope of Canon 27.
Formal Opinions 272 and 299 do not allow an attorney engaged in an active law practice to hold himself out as qualified to perform in another, even though unrelated, field such as public accounting. Informal Opinion No. 442 holds it is not improper to engage in another business unless it would hamper the lawyer's ability to carry out his duties as a member of the Bar. This occurs where the activities are so closely allied as to cause a conflict. Informal Opinion No. 424 indicated that insurance is one of those fields which is so closely related to the practice of law that to engage in it violates the canons and rules of the American Bar Association.
Should a question of malpractice arise, it is possible, perhaps even probable, that a client who received both legal and insurance services from the same person would fail to benefit from the malpractice insurance carried by said person. Each carrier would have the opportunity to claim that the error complained of was committed by its insured while he was acting in a capacity other than that covered by the policy. Were a carrier to issue a policy covering risks in both areas the question of which standards to apply would undoubtedly make it more difficult for a client to press his claim.
This opinion is advisory only. It is not binding upon the State Bar, the Board of Governors, its agents or employees.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A.B.A. Formal Opinion No. 328 liberalized somewhat the position of the American Bar Association regarding dual expertise; however, the A.B.A. Code has not been adopted by California.
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.