99 N.J.L.J. 610
July 8, 1976
Conflict of Interest
Attorney Husband of
Real Estate Salesperson
This Committee's Opinion 312, 98 N.J.L.J. 646 (1975), dealt
with the ethical problems confronting an attorney whose wife was a
salesperson employed by a real estate agency. Her compensation from the agency was solely in the form of salary paid her. We there held that it would be unethical for the attorney to represent any party to a transaction where his wife had been the listing or selling agent. The rationale of that opinion is that there is an inherent conflict where the wife is the selling or listing broker because, even though she is on a salary basis, it is to her advantage to have the transaction completed and the brokerage commission paid while circumstances might arise that would persuade the attorney that the transaction should not be completed.
We are now asked what our opinion would be where the wife's compensation is in the form of commissions on sales or rentals made by her and on exclusive listings obtained by her and no part of her compensation is in the form of salary. Specifically, we are asked whether the partners or associates of the attorney might represent any party to a transaction in which the real estate agency is entitled to a commission but in which the wife did not make the sale or rental or obtain the exclusive listing and from which she will receive no financial benefit.
We indicated in Opinion 312 that two questions were posed by the circumstances, one having to do with solicitation and advertising and the other having to do with conflict of interest. We concluded that the circumstances present did not amount to soliciting or advertising, and we reach the same conclusion here. As to the conflict of interest, there appears to be nothing in the circumstances presented by this inquiry that would result in a conflict of interest. While it might be said that the real estate agency benefits from the completion of all transactions and accordingly the continued viability of the agency benefits the wife, nevertheless we conclude that these results are too indirect and too remote where the wife has had no connection with the transaction and receives no financial benefit from it.