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OBA Ethics Counsel

Ethics Opinion No. 144

Adopted April 12, 1950

THE FACTS

A firm of lawyers primarily employed by one client to represent him in a proceeding involving like interests of other parties, and which firm of lawyers had been induced to appear for all of these interested parties, was paid in full the agreed fee by the particular client who had initially employed them. The primary client, having sold his property, the firm was directed by that client not to proceed further upon behalf of that particular client in connection with an appeal which had been taken by the opposition. The firm of lawyers desires to know the extent of its duty to the other interested parties previously represented.

QUERY

What is the extent of the duty of the law firm to the collateral clients?

ANSWER

The firm should notify all persons whom it has previously represented in the proceeding, or whom it has assumed to advise, and any and all other parties interested which the firm has reason to believe have placed reliance in and on the legal representation previously furnished (including the purchaser from the primary client), as to the status of the case and that the firm's original client has withdrawn as a party and has instructed the firm that it does not wish to resist the appeal, and that the firm will not proceed further unless authorized, employed and paid to do so by other interested parties. Under the circumstances, the firm of attorneys is certainly not obligated to resist the appeal unless satisfactory arrangements are made for employment and compensation for this purpose. But the firm is obligated to see that all persons, or parties, previously relying upon the representation by said firm of attorneys are made clearly to understand that they will be without counsel unless counsel is employed for the purpose of resisting the appeal.