114 N.J.L.J. 387
October 11, 1984
Father "Of Counsel" To Law Firm
Handling Criminal Cases In County
Where Son Is The County Prosecutor
The inquirer practiced law in a partnership with his son until the latter was appointed a full-time prosecutor. The law firm was thereupon dissolved, and the father continued to practice alone in the same municipality and county. He now desires to become "of counsel" with a law firm also in the same municipality and county where he practiced before and where his son is the full-time prosecutor.
The father inquires as to whether, if he becomes "of counsel" with this law firm, will it be precluded from engaging in any criminal practice in the county in which his son is the prosecutor.
It seems clear to us that if, after the inquirer becomes associated with it, the law firm handles criminal cases in the county in question, there may be public perception that its clients will receive some preferential treatment, thus, giving rise to the appearance of impropriety. As we pointed out in Opinion 191, 94 N.J.L.J. 33 (1971) and reiterated in Opinion 201, 94 N.J.L.J. 225 (1971), this must be avoided.
Since the inquirer will be precluded from practicing criminal law in the county in question, so will the law firm to which he becomes "of counsel". R. 1:15-5(b) defines "office associate" as including attorneys who share common office facilities. A person in an "of counsel" status obviously shares office facilities. Since he is precluded from practicing criminal law in the county, so will the law firm be barred under R. 1:15-4.
The inquirer states that he does not believe that our cited Opinions 191 and 201, supra, apply to his situation, but we conclude that they do.