Lawyers Can Accept Bitcoin—But Must Exchange ASAP, Nebraska Says
Lawyers who accept bitcoin as payment for legal services must straightaway convert the digital currency into U.S. dollars and credit the client’s account, the Nebraska Supreme Court’s ethics committee advised Sept. 11 (Nebraska Supreme Court Ass’n Advisory Comm., Op. 17-03, 9/11/17).
The opinion appears to be the first from any ethics panel in the United States to assess how ethics rules apply to lawyers’ receipt of virtual currency through blockchain technology. A growing number of law firms are taking bitcoins as payment, the committee noted.
Another digital currency expert, John S. Wagster, said the opinion really just asks attorneys to abide by the same rules with cryptocurrency as they’re required to abide by with regular currency.
“I don’t see any really new ground being turned here,” Wagster told Bloomberg BNA. He practices with Frost Brown Todd in Nashville, Tenn.
Wagster told Bloomberg BNA that his firm’s policy is to convert cryptocurrency immediately upon acceptance, as advised in the Nebraska opinion.
Frost Brown Todd has some additional policies not included in the Nebraska opinion, Wagster said. The firm accepts cryptocurrency only from clients that are corporations, not individuals, and only for noncriminal matters.
Also, the firm accepts cryptocurrency only for payment of legal services provided, not for retainers.
Wagner said he wasn’t suggesting there’s something wrong with firms that want to keep cryptocurrency as retainers. “Our firm’s policy is we don’t want to take that risk,” he said.
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