87 N.J.L.J. 19
January 9, 1964
Dual Professional Occupations
The Committee has received three inquiries relating to conduct of a lawyer who is also a certified public accountant.
(1) May a lawyer who is also a certified public accountant state upon his law office stationery and his professional cards that he is also a certified public accountant?
It is our opinion that such a statement on a lawyer's professional card is improper. In so holding we adopt the reasoning set forth in American Bar Association, Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinion 272 (1946), as follows:
The Committee all deem it in the interest of the profession and its clients that a lawyer should be precluded from holding himself out, even passively, as employable in another independent professional capacity. We find no provision in the Canons precluding a lawyer from being a C.P.A., or from using his knowledge and experience in accounting in his law practice.
The Committee all agree that a lawyer, who is also a C.P.A. may perform what are primarily accounting services, as an incident to his law practice, without violating our Canons. We are also agreed that he may not properly hold himself out as practicing accounting at the same office as that in which he practices law, since this would constitute an advertisement of his services as accountant which would violate Canon 27 as construed in our opinions.
See also Assn. of the Bar, City of N.Y., Committee on
Professional Ethics, Opinion 788 (1954), providing in part:
As for the proposed use of the term certified
public accountant, that in no sense denotes a legal
specialty, nor indeed any branch of the law. Reference
thereto would constitute an advertisement of
qualifications for the practice of a separate and
distinct profession, and is therefore disapproved.
(2) May a lawyer who is also an accountant display lettering upon his office window indicating that he maintains his law office as well as the fact that he is a certified public accountant?
The Committee is of the opinion that the proposed office window lettering would clearly be advertising such as is proscribed by Canon 27, particularly in the light of the above-cited opinions, which would be equally applicable here.
(3) May a member of the Bar of New Jersey engage in the practice of law in this State simultaneously with the practice of public accounting?
The question is a close one on which respected authorities differ. A majority of the American Bar Association's Committee on Professional Ethics and Grievances in 1946 felt such dual practices were proscribed by Canon 27 for the reason that realistically the accounting practice could serve as a feeder for the law practice. (See American Bar Association, Committee on Professional Ethics, Opinion 272, at p. 569 (1957 ed.)) A minority of the Committee, however, found "nothing in the Canons which precludes a lawyer from attempting to carry on both professions, wholly independent of one another, at the same time but from a different office with different stationery and where in practicing accounting the lawyer follows all the Canons pertaining to lawyers." More recently the American Bar Association's Committee reaffirmed its position as expressed by the majority in 1946. (See Opinion 297 (1961).) However, the Committees of the N.Y. County Lawyers Assn. and of the Assn. Of the Bar, City of N.Y., in a joint opinion (N.Y. County, Opinion 388 (1950), City of N.Y., Opinion 743 (1949), found that there would be no violation of Canon 27 where lawyers who were also certified public accountants practiced accounting in the same office and placed on their office door their legal firm name, followed by "Attorneys and Counselors at Law" and their accounting firm name, followed by "Certified Public Accountants," provided, however, that the attorneys-accountants "in the practice of their profession as certified public accountants, adhere to the professional standards applicable to attorneys at law with respect to advertising and solicitation."
Specifically answering question number 3 as directed to us, we find that the dual practices of law and accounting, per se, by lawyers would not violate the Canons of Professional Ethics. Nor does it appear to us that any other rules of our Supreme Court would be violated by such dual practices.