FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
September 29, 1964
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
It is improper for a lawyer, employed full-time as an assistant city attorney and also serving as
president of an association of city employees, to present the association’s proposed amendment
of the city’s pension plan to municipal officials.
Caveat: This opinion’s disapproval of union membership as such has been overruled by the
Board of Governors. The BOG advisory ethics opinion follows Opinion 77-15 in this
6, 27, 35, 44
ABA 275, ABA Informal 267
Chairman Smith stated the opinion of the committee:
A member of The Florida Bar states he is employed full-time as an assistant
city attorney. His position is classified within the civil service system of the
municipality. He also serves as president of an association of city employees
formed pursuant to the provisions of Florida Statute 839.221(2) (1963). The
association desires to effect amendment of a city pension plan for employees and,
as its president, he is expected to present the proposals for amendment to the
municipal officers. He inquires if he may ethically do so.
It is the opinion of this Committee that the lawyer cannot ethically represent the interests
of the association before the municipal officials. His position is such that he owes a professional
obligation to the city as well as occupying a position of leadership in the association. The
possibility of conflicting interests is imminent and obvious.
It is further the Committee’s opinion that it is improper for him to be a member of the
association, which appears to be a labor union or quite similar to one. Legal ethics authorities are
unanimous and unequivocal in holding that a lawyer may not join a labor union. Drinker, Legal
Ethics, page 160, states:
A lawyer may not belong to a labor union which includes persons not
lawyers. By so doing he surrenders his power of independent action.
In Informal Opinion 267, ABA Opinions of Committee on Professional Ethics and
Grievances (1957), page 641, the American Bar Association holds: A lawyer may not join a
union of the employer’s employees.
ABA Opinion 275 deals with the propriety of a lawyer, employed full-time by an
insurance company, joining a proposed labor union representing employees of the company. The
opinion points especially to the possibility of a conflict of interests between the company and the
union. It also stresses the lawyer’s obligation to keep in confidence information gained from his
employment. Canons 6, 27, 35 and 44 are treated as having possible pertinence.