The Yale Law Journal – Forum: The Pitfalls and False Promises of Nonlawyer Ownership of Law Firms Stephen P. Younger ABSTRACT. Whether non…
Source: OTHERWISE: The Yale Law Journal – Forum: The Pitfalls and False Promises of Nonlawyer Ownership of Law Firms
ABSTRACT. Whether nonlawyers should have ownership roles in law firms has been and remains a hotly debated topic. The debate concerns potential reforms to Rule 5.4 of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which sets guidelines for maintaining the professional independence of lawyers, as well as the impact of those revisions on the legal profession. Although advocates for such reform argue that nonlawyers must be allowed ownership roles in law firms in order to foster innovation and increase access to legal services, many lawyers have raised significant concerns about the impact that nonlawyer ownership would have on the independence of lawyers. Lawyers have concerns about allowing nonlawyers—who have not sworn to uphold the ethical obligations that attorneys promise to uphold when becoming members of the bar—to have decision-making authority in the day-to-day practice of law. There is also no evidence that nonlawyer ownership actually improves access to justice for the needy. This Essay argues against rewriting Rule 5.4 to allow nonlawyer ownership of law firms. It concludes that nonlawyer ownership not only fails to solve the problems that advocates of reform promise it will address but in fact creates meaningful risks for the legal profession.
Source: OTHERWISE: Comparative awards must be verifiable – New Jersey Supreme Court – Advertising Committee
Supplementing Opinion 42:
Rule of Professional Conduct 7.1(a)(3) – Honors, Awards, and Accolades that Compare Lawyers’ Services With Other Lawyers’ Services
The ethics rules governing advertising are intended to protect the public from statements that are false, deceptive, or misleading. Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, 383 (1977). Advertising that makes claims about the “quality of the legal services . . . are not susceptible of measurement or verification; accordingly, such claims may be so likely to be misleading as to warrant restriction.” Id. at 383-84.
When lawyers state that they are included on a list called “Top Attorneys,” for example, the lawyers are making a statement of fact – they were included on the list – but they are also making a statement that supports an inference about the quality of their legal services, that their services are “top” or better than other lawyers’ services.
Such statements can be misleading. See Peel v. Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Comm’n of Illinois, 496 U.S. 91, 101 (1990) (advertising a lawyer certification issued by an organization that does not inquire into the lawyer’s fitness can be misleading).
Accordingly, Rule of Professional Conduct 7.1(a)(3) prohibits lawyers from making comparative statements. When referring to an accolade or honor that compares lawyers, the factual basis for the comparison must be verifiable. RPC 7.1(a)(3)(ii). Further, the conferrer of the award must have made appropriate “inquiry into the fitness of the lawyer.” Official Comment to Rule of Professional Conduct 7.1. See also In re Opinion 39, 197 N.J. 66, 76 (2008)