The Missouri Supreme Court has created some new ethical rules that take effect on July 1, 2007. New Rule 4-1.8(j) seems to be attempting to avoid conflicts, but raises novel issues.
The new rules states: “A lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a client unless a consensual sexual relationship existed between them when the client-lawyer relationship commenced.”
I can appreciate the problem this rule addresses, but sometimes you just can’t solve every problem with a new rule. (At least it’s not the legislature this time.) Anyway, try out this imaginary exchange between a lawyer (trying to do the right thing) and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel:
Dear Legal Ethics Counsel:
I am a lawyer in a small law firm. My fiancé and I are getting married in a few months. We have agreed that we will not have sex until we are married. My fiancé is starting a business and wants to hire me to represent him in the business. If he hires me to do the legal work, would it be an ethical violation for me to have sex with him on our wedding night?
Confused Boone County Bride
Dear Confused in Boone:
It is good that you come to us first before you create a mess for yourself. The short answer is yes: under your circumstances, to have sexual relations with your husband on your wedding night would be highly unethical. The ethical thing would be to jump his bones tonight, before you form a client-lawyer relationship. Hope that helps.
Legal Ethics Counsel