OK, how is this for rational ethics? As an attorney in Maryland or presumably in any state, I can start an ancillary business (let’s call it AB) like investment management or a lobbying shop or an insurance business which will serve both my firm and other customers. And presumably, because I own AB, any time a customer of AB needs a lawyer, AB’s employees will recommend my firm and any time my client needs a service, I’ll recommend AB. Of course, it’s likely that clients will shuffle back and forth between my firm and AB, but golly, that’s just serendipitous. Yes, as a lawyer in Maryland, I can engage in all of this, completely ethically, without concern about quid pro quo referrals or conflict of interest. I just can’t join a networking group and get to know some of the other business people in my community because that would make me beholden to the others in the group which would irreperably compromise my independent judgment.
If someone can provide a rational explanation of this that doesn’t involve a double standard for small firm practitioners and large firm attorneys, please post your comments below or send me a link to a post at your blog.