123 N.J.L.J. 310
February 9, 1989
Propriety of Lawyer Operating a
For-Profit Business Providing a
Source Referral and Consultation
Service to Adoptive Parents
Inquirer, a New Jersey attorney, plans to organize and operate
a for-profit business to provide to the public a source referral
and consultation service to prospective adoptive parents. The
business would obtain basic information from licensed adoption
agencies nationwide, as well as orphanages, agencies and government
programs overseas. The prospective adoptive parents' data would be
matched with the requirements of the adoption organizations, and
the service would be able to provide to the parents a list of
agencies that may be able to meet their needs. The service would
also provide general information about parent support groups,
reading lists and other relevant information. The prospective
parents would be charged an as yet undetermined fee for these
Inquirer expresses her opinion that the foregoing facts would not be in direct violation of N.J.S.A. 9:3-39a. This Committee's jurisdiction does not encompass the construction of state statutes (that being a question of substantive law for the courts) and, therefore, we express no opinion as to whether or not the Inquirer would be in violation of N.J.S.A. 9:3-39a.
The ethics questions posed are as follows:
(a) Will it be unethical for the Inquirer to accept employment as a lawyer from a client of the service?
Although Opinion 548, 114 N.J.L.J. 620 (1984) dealt with a subject of free seminars to the public, the same rules would be applicable to the instant inquiry.
(b) Inquirer asks if she can use her name in advertising the proposed Adoption Referral Service without using the designation "Attorney at Law"?
In Opinion 532, 113 N.J.L.J. 544 (1984), we stated that there is no prohibition against creating another business, but that the business and the law office must be kept entirely separate.
(c) Lastly, the Inquirer asks that if a separate business were not established, would it be ethical to advertise the referral and source consulting service in conjunction with the practice of law?
In Opinion 532, supra, we held that a law office must be kept entirely separate from any other business venture and, therefore, the proposed advertising would be improper. See also Opinion 540, 114 N.J.L.J. 387 (1984).