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ABA adopts Resolution 105 encouraging states to consider non-traditional legal service providers, including non-lawyer firm ownership

Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the American Bar Association’s February 8, 2016 approval and adoption of Formal Resolution 105, which adopts the ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services.  The Final ABA Resolution 105 as Revised and Adopted is here:

According to the ABA website, Resolution 105 “(a)dopts the ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services, dated February, 2016 and urges that each state’s highest court, and those of each territory and tribe be guided by the Model Regulatory Objectives when they assess the court’s existing regulatory framework and any other regulation they may choose to develop concerning non-traditional legal service providers.”

The ABA Resolution calls for the adoption of “regulatory objectives for the provision of legal services” that would help “identify and implement regulations related to legal services beyond the traditional regulation of the legal profession.”  With the exception of the District of Columbia, no jurisdiction in the U.S. permits non-lawyer ownership of law firms (although the United Kingdom and some U.K. commonwealth countries do permit it).

The arguments for non-lawyer ownership of law firms include that it would expand consumers’ access to legal services, encourage innovation, and reduce the cost of legal services; however, the Resolution has drawn criticism.  The arguments against non-lawyer ownership include that it would encourage profit making (and taking) over serving clients and the public.

According to a Wall Street Journal “LawBlog” article (quoting AmLaw Daily)”:

(T)he mere mention of “non-traditional legal service providers” raises hackles for some in the ABA. The Texas state bar board, for example, has asked Texas delegates to withhold their support for Resolution 105.  State bar president-elect Frank Stevenson II of Locke Lord said the board opposes the proposal because it seems to presume there’s a place for non-lawyers to provide legal services.”

The LawBlog article also states that “(t)he New York State Bar Association is also fighting against the resolution, saying it would open the door to nonlawyer firm ownership. ‘Nonlawyer ownership of law firms creates a whole new set of fiduciary responsibilities, which have nothing to do with the best interests of the clients we are duty-bound to serve,’ the state bar’s president, David P. Miranda, said in a statement.”

Bottom line: This is has been, and continues to be, a very controversial issue; however, there does not seem to be much support for non-lawyer ownership of law firms in Florida or other jurisdictions.

Disclaimer:  this e-mail is not an advertisement and does not contain any legal advice and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.

Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire

Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.

2454 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 431

Clearwater, Florida 33759

Office (727) 799-1688

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