The Florida Bar

October 9, 1967

There is no ethical objection to a lawyer representing a union and separately representing its members.

Canon: 35

Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar advises that he represents several labor unions in his county in connection with various problems in the labor-management field. On occasion he has been asked by individual members of these unions to perform legal services directly for them. He states that he often is asked to speak before groups of members of the various unions which he represents. Frequently he is asked by individuals during or after such meetings whether he is available to handle personal legal problems. He stated that he has been handling such inquiries in the following manner:

I first make it clear that primarily I represent the union for labor law problems; I then state that I cannot use their union as a source of general practice, adding, however, that I will handle general practice for anyone who desires my services.

The inquirer further states that he has not requested the various business representatives of the unions to refer clients to him, but that on the other hand he has not issued any positive instructions to such representatives that they should not mention his name as a possible source of assistance to members making inquiry of the business agents. In sum, the inquirer wishes to be advised as to the propriety of continuing to proceed in this manner.

We consider this matter solely from the ethical standpoint, and lay aside various federal constitutional questions possibly lurking in the background. In so doing, we see no impropriety in the approach which is being taken. Manifestly there is no objection to the lawyer representing a union and separately representing individual members of the union so long as the union is not employed as a device for purposes of serving as a “feeder.” Moreover, in the same light there would be no objection per se to representatives of the union on occasion recommending the inquirer. On the other hand, the representation of the union should be conducted in such manner as to avoid the taint of advertising. Thus the meetings should not be mere excuses for the lawyer to appear and submit himself to inquiries which will lead to his retention. Moreover, he should be careful that referrals from business agents do not become so routine or systematic as to raise questions of a “feeder” system.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]