Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Conduct Board Issues Advisory Opinions to New Judges, Law Firms

The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct has issued two opinions replacing those previously issued under the former Code of Professional Responsibility and former Code of Judicial Conduct.

Advisory Opinion 2021-6 advises newly elected or appointed judges concerning their ethical obligations when receiving payments from their former law firms.

A judge who continues to receive legal fees earned prior to taking the bench or retirement benefits must recuse himself or herself when lawyers from the former law firm appear in matters before the judge. In addition, a judge may not remain a member of a partnership while receiving earned fees or retirement benefits due to restrictions against practicing law while holding judicial office.

The opinion also advises judges to consider the nature of a prior professional relationship, the size of the former law firm, and the time that has elapsed when contemplating recusal in cases involving a former partner as counsel. The opinion replaces Adv. Op. 95-03 and Adv. Op. 2007-02.

Advisory Opinion 2021-7 explains that a law firm may not require an associate to sign an employment agreement that requires the associate, upon leaving the firm, to pay the firm a percentage of fees received from departing clients who elected to remain with the associate.

The opinion cites a rule that prohibits a lawyer from entering into an agreement that restricts the right of a lawyer to practice law and the public policy that favors a client’s ability to select the counsel of their choice. 

In analyzing the employment agreement, the opinion also references the prohibition against fee splitting with lawyers in different law firms, unless the client consents and the fees are in proportion to the legal services performed by each lawyer. This opinion replaces Advisory Opinion 92-08.