New NYS Ethics Opinion: Lawyer as Third-Party Neutral

Some of you may be interested in a new ethics opinion published late last week by the New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics addressing the ethical obligations of a lawyer acting as a mediator.

Here is the summary:

“A lawyer-mediator engaged in providing third-party neutral services is subject to Rule 2.4 but not the Rules that govern the representation of clients.  As such, the lawyer-mediator is generally free to conduct the mediation in the way the lawyer thinks best, and to charge whatever fee may be appropriate, provided always that the lawyer fully discloses to the parties that the lawyer is acting as a disinterested mediator and not as counsel to any party, including the consequences of that difference.  In the event of an agreement, the lawyer-mediator may memorialize the parties’ understanding in a document and may appear as counsel for one party (but not both) in filing a divorce action if the other party gives informed consent confirmed in writing.”