Use of the Designation "Of Counsel"
Opinion rules that an attorney may be designated as "of counsel" to a North Carolina law firm so long as the attorney is licensed in North Carolina and will have a close, in-house association with the firm which does not involve conflicts of Interest.
Lawyer A is a member of the North Carolina Bar and has been a member for about 15 years. Lawyer A is also a member of the Texas Bar and is a partner in Texas Law Firm Y in Houston, Texas. During the years that Lawyer A has lived and worked in Texas, he has maintained a second home in North Carolina and has maintained a personal and professional relationship with Law Firm X. His family moves to North Carolina for the summer and he makes frequent trips to North Carolina throughout the year.
Lawyer A will semi-retire from the Texas practice and will be dividing his time between Texas and North Carolina. He will maintain a permanent office with Law Firm X and will be in the office for a few days each month and in contact with other attorneys and staff of Law Firm X on a frequent basis. It is anticipated that eventually Lawyer A will retire to North Carolina.
May Lawyer A become "of counsel" to Law Firm X?
Yes. Nothing in the Rules of Professional Conduct specifically speaks to use of the designation "of counsel." A firm may designate as "of counsel" another attorney who is licensed in North Carolina, and who will have a close, in-house association free and clear from problems of conflict, without violation of Rule 2.3. CPRs 82 and 155 were decided under the Code of Professional Responsibility and were based on provisions not included in the Rules of Professional Conduct. To the extent CPRs 82 and 155 required daily contact or association, they are overruled.
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