This Div is a JS Trigger
Issue 56 | March 2019

LIANSWERS

This newsletter includes information to help lawyers reduce the likelihood of being sued for malpractice. The material presented is not intended to establish, report, or create the standard of care for lawyers. The articles do not represent a complete analysis of the topics presented, and readers should conduct their own appropriate legal research.
Perfect strangers: Lawyers sharing office space

It is not uncommon for lawyers to share office space with other lawyers or non-lawyers. Though multi-disciplinary partnerships with non-lawyers are not, at this time, permitted in Nova Scotia, shared space is a way to reduce the cost of running an office. However, such situations do present a risk of confusing a client and/or running afoul of section 3.3 and Commentary 3.3-1[7] of the NSBS Code of Professional Conduct. If you are in a shared space arrangement, here are some things (but not an exhaustive list) that you should consider. Also review LIANS' Office Space/Location/Confidentiality page for more resources and relevant precedents. We understand that some of these are more appropriate for offices shared with non-lawyers rather than lawyers but they are still worthy of consideration:

  1. Refrain from having conversations about your clients in open or shared spaces outside your office such as common areas;
  2. Be vigilant about materials left in common areas (e.g. shared meeting rooms, reception area, photocopier area). In the case of a photocopier, depending on your practice, you may want to consider having your own to avoid issues with documents left on a shared machine or if the machine saves documents in memory;
  3. Ask yourself whether the person in the adjoining office can hear your office and telephone conversations;
  4. Consider a confidentiality agreement with the people you share space with (though you should take all necessary precautions to protect confidential information at first instance);
  5. If using a common receptionist, make sure your phone is answered under your name. Or have your phone answered by your own staff or use a direct line;
  6. Let your client know you are in shared space and with whom. If that presents a problem be prepared to meet the client elsewhere;
  7. Advise your client that the lawyers sharing space with you are free to act for clients who are adverse in interest;
  8. Regularly review procedures with your staff to ensure confidentiality is preserved at all times;
  9. If you keep client information outside your office, keep it in a locked cabinet; and
  10. Be mindful of the rules regarding referral fees, particularly the prohibitions against fee splitting and paying referral fees to non-lawyers.