November 2, 2020
New York State Bar Association
When a client contacts a transactional lawyer to assist with a business venture, there may be more questions than answers: What is the client’s identity? What is the source of the funds? Why does the lawyer need to deposit and disburse funds immediately? Who is the recipient of the funds? What is the jurisdiction? What is the nature of the legal services to be performed? Without clear answers, what may appear to be legal assistance for a routine or simple transaction may turn out to involve bizarre or suspicious activity. A growing number of cases illustrate how lawyers may have unwittingly become embroiled in aiding or facilitating a client’s money laundering scheme. Transactional lawyers need to be careful about the potential ethical implications of assisting clients with questionable transactions and should consider taking steps to prevent violating the New York Rules of Professional Conduct (“Rules”).