Conflicts Between Lawyer & Client - Sharing Space continued

So while it is important to understand the space-sharing provisions of the BC Code, you must remain aware of the separate Rule that applies to lawyers who are held out as practising in partnership or association with other lawyers. Small firms will be captured by the BC Code Chapter 3, Rule 3.4-43, but so will sole practitioners in a space-sharing arrangement that creates an apparent partnership or association. In this respect, be particularly conscious of your advertising and firm name. The B.C. Lawyers' Compulsory Professional Liability Insurance Policy defines a "law firm" to include an "apparent partnership." This can have ramifications, for example, on how broadly Exclusion 6 may apply to a situation.

Space-sharing creates a situation where one lawyer in the shared space may act for clients who are adverse in interest to the clients of another lawyer sharing that space. As such, unless all lawyers sharing the space agree that they will not act for clients of adverse interest, each lawyer in the shared space must disclose in writing to all their clients:

  • that a space-sharing arrangement exists;
  • the identity of the lawyers who make up the firm acting for the client; and
  • the identity of the lawyers sharing space with the firm but who are free to act for clients adverse in interest to the firm’s clients.

(BC Code, Chapter 3, rule 3.4-43)

It is good practice to disclose the existence of a space-sharing arrangement even in circumstances where the lawyers have agreed not to act for clients adverse in interest. Consider your potential exposure to risk depending on how your space-sharing arrangement is perceived, especially in regards to the BC Code. It is important to consider things such as office signage, letterhead, website, and other advertising when addressing space-sharing.