Sharing Space

Space-sharing occurs when you share office space with one or more lawyers but are not practising or being held out to practise in partnership or association with them. Commentary [10] to section 3.4 of the Code lists examples of areas where conflicts of interest may occur and specifically notes space-sharing and similar arrangements as an area where conflict may arise, stating:

Sole practitioners who practise with other lawyers in cost-sharing or other arrangements represent clients on opposite sides of a dispute.

    • The fact or the appearance of such a conflict may depend on the extent to which the lawyer’s practices are integrated, physically and administratively, in the association.

Space-sharing creates a situation where one lawyer in the shared space may act for clients who are adverse in interest to the clients of another lawyer sharing that space. At the outset of any space-sharing arrangements, the lawyers involved need to decide whether or not they will not act for clients of adverse interest.

If lawyers in a space-sharing arrangement determine that they will act for clients of adverse interest, then each lawyer in the shared space should disclose in writing to all their clients:

  • That space-sharing arrangement exists;
  • The identity of the lawyers who make up the firm acting for the client; and
  • The identity of the lawyers sharing space with the firm but who are free to act for clients adverse in interest.

Even if lawyers in a space-sharing arrangement have agreed not to act for clients adverse in interest, it is good practice to disclose the existence of the arrangement to clients. More importantly, such lawyers must establish a conflict checking system that prevents conflicts from arising in a space-sharing environment. To ensure confidentiality, however, each lawyer must have the consent of each client before disclosing any information about that client for the purposes of the space-sharing conflict check. Although there are many resources you may wish to share in a space-sharing arrangement to reduce overhead, it is strongly recommended that you do not share equipment or resources like fax machines or servers which bring into the question the protection, security, and confidentiality of client information. See Code section 3-3.1, Commentary [7].