FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
March 14, 1972
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
It is permissible for a group of local lawyers to form a nonprofit corporation to provide free legal
assistance to persons who, although unable to employ counsel, do not qualify for Legal Aid.
Chairman Clarkson stated the opinion of the committee:
A member of the Orange County Bar Association advises as follows:
Several months ago, a group of Orange County lawyers banded together for the
purpose of providing legal assistance to persons, who, although unable to employ
counsel, do not qualify for Legal Aid. We have opened an office which is staffed five
days a week and is operated under the name of “Neighborhood Law Office.”
Volunteer attorneys are called upon from time to time and offer their services on a
part-time basis. The purpose of our existence and guidelines under which we operate
is set forth in a statement of policy which I enclose for your information. 1
At the present time, the cost of our operation is funded from private sources.
However, in order to solicit and receive charitable contributions for the continued
operation of the NLO, we would like to form a non-profit corporation under the
Florida Statutes. Will the formation of such a corporation and participation therein
violate our Canons of Ethics?
We are also advised that the Neighborhood Law Office program is
supplementary to an existing Legal Aid Society operated under auspices of the
Orange County Bar Association.
“The Neighborhood Law Office is a voluntary association of members of the Orange County
Bar who feel it appropriate to volunteer a portion of their time and professional skills in an effort to
make legal assistance available to those in our community who are otherwise unable to secure the
services of an attorney. The Neighborhood Law Office and its participating attorneys do not accept
fees for any services rendered and does (sic) not seek to compete with either the private attorney or
existing forms of legal assistance. However, because there do exist persons who are not able to
secure the benefits of counsel through existing institutions and because the Neighborhood Law
Office and its participants believe that it is the responsibility of those who are part of the legal
system to make it accessible to all persons regardless of their finances or the nature of their cause,
the Neighborhood Law Office has been established and will seek within its limitations of manpower
and finances to provide such legal assistance to those who require it.”
This Committee has exhaustively considered and discussed the safeguards and standards
which must be included within the framework of any program providing legal services to the needy.
See Florida Opinion 66-56 [since withdrawn]. Subject to compliance with the admonitions set forth
in our prior opinion, a majority of the Committee approves the Orange County proposal and finds it
permissible under the provisions of DR 2-103(D), CPR.
Two committeemen would disapprove establishment of the supplemental program as
proposed. They have concluded that the “Neighborhood Law Office” is neither a bona fide
non-profit community organization (because it lacks a broad base) nor a project operated, sponsored
or approved by a representative bar association.