NEW YORK, Oct 20 (Reuters) - An ethics opinion issued by
the New York County Lawyers Association on Thursday could be
good news for any white-shoe attorney hankering to join Occupy Wall Street protesters in Zuccotti Park.
The opinion interprets changes made last year to a
provision of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule
6.4, that deals with attorneys' rights to participate in "law
The change removed the provision requiring attorneys to
notify clients if they participated in any such activities that
could harm their clients' interests.
Law reform activities include government protests, as well
as opposition to zoning regulations, calls for increased
funding, and efforts to preserve historic landmarks.
Thursday's opinion by NYCLA, the first organization to
interpret the change, stated that lawyers could speak or
participate in law reform activities without a client's
consent, and even in the face of a client's affirmative
objection, as long as no confidential client information is
disclosed during that participation.
The opinion added that attorneys may engage in such
activities as long as the lawyers' participation did not
violate other conflict-of-interest rules governing attorney
"This is not a green light to push your client under the
bus," said Barry Temkin, chair of NYCLA's professional ethics
committee. "But a lawyer must have the freedom to speak."
Temkin added that Occupy Wall Street was not the kind of
reform movement contemplated by the rule, because the protests
have not proposed any specific legal reforms. He said the rule
could apply if the protesters' reform efforts become more
The NYCLA opinion also said that if a client would benefit
from a lawyer taking a certain position for law reform, the
lawyer has a responsibility to disclose that to the
organization seeking reform.
(Reporting by Leigh Jones)
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