Attorney-Client Protections Do Not Extend to Lawyers Providing Government Affairs Counseling in Non-Law Firm Settings

A December 10, 2015, joint decision from the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics and the Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law (‘Committees’) provides clarity to lawyer-lobbyists working in non-law firm settings. Both Committees examined this issue after receiving an inquiry whether an attorney representing clients at a lobbying and government affairs services company that is not a law firm may use the designation “Esq.” after her name on company letterhead. The decision concludes that a lawyer may “associate with non-lawyers in lobbying and government affairs services companies, outside a law firm, provided the company communicates to their customers that they do not provide legal services or offer the protections of a lawyer-client relationship and the lawyers do not hold themselves out as acting in the capacity of lawyers.” The decision also directs attorneys, working in a non-legal setting, to not use the “Esquire” or “Esq.” designation. As part of its analysis, the Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law determined that many of the activities associated with lobbying are the practice of law, but also determined that it is in the public interest to allow registered non-lawyers to provide these services as well. They felt that “potential harm was...