The Florida Bar

January 25, 1972

It is permissible for a lawyer-legislator's firm to share a suite of offices with another law firm, one member of which performs lobbying services, provided there is a physical and functional division of the separate law practices.

Opinions: 67-5, 70-14

Chairman Clarkson stated the opinion of the committee:

A lawyer-legislator submits the following question for our consideration:

Until recently he had been a member of a firm in a metropolitan area. Intending to establish a new practice in partnership with a lawyer member of his family, he sought new office space. Coincidentally, he learned of the availability of part of a suite of offices occupied by a law firm, one member of which performs lobbying services for a client before the Florida legislature. Being mindful of problems discussed in Florida Opinion 67-5 [since withdrawn], the legislator asks whether we find any impropriety in his new firm's occupancy of space within a suite shared by the lawyer-lobbyist under the circumstances detailed hereafter. He advises of the following arrangements:

1. Each firm maintains complete and separate operations from the other--each having their own books and bookkeeper; each buying its own supplies, books, postage and all other office expense items; each maintaining its own bank accounts (trust and operating) and in every respect being completely separate.

2. We have a common reception room and receptionist or telephone operator in that space. We each pay one-half of the receptionist's salary.

3. A & B had four telephone lines coming into the office--all of which operated in sequence off of (telephone number). Temporarily C & D are listed under the same number and we pay for two of these lines--or one-half of the telephone bill for the equipment and basic service. Naturally, each one maintains its own record of toll charges and pays them accordingly. We have ordered separate phone numbers for C & D which will be installed soon. The switchboard operator answer the phone "law offices" and then refers the caller appropriately.

4. Each of the two law firms pays one-half of the total rent for the space occupied.

Assuming the space-sharing arrangement to be a temporary accommodation, and in view of the measures taken to establish a physical and functional division of the separate practices, see Florida Opinion 70-14, the Committee finds no impropriety in the conduct as described.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]