Legal Ethics

Good News: Indiana Now Permits Contract Paraprofessionals!

By Talitha Gray Kozlowski
July 31, 2019

Model Rule 5.3, which has been adopted in nearly every state, including Indiana, authorizes attorneys to use paraprofessional assistants as long as they are performing services at the attorney’s direction and are directly supervised.  Comment 1 to Rule 5.3 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct acknowledges that “[a]ttorneys generally employ assistants in their practice, including secretaries, investigators, law student interns, paralegals and other paraprofessionals.  Such assistants, whether employees or independent contractors, act for the lawyer in rendition of the lawyer’s professional services.”  Comment 1 then goes on to discuss the need for appropriate direction and supervision by the attorney.  This discussion is consistent with the Model Rules and their comments and other-states’ adoption and application of Model Rule 5.3.

However, until July 3, 2019, Indiana’s Guideline 9.1 to its Rule 5.3 contradicted Comment 1 by expressly precluding attorneys from engaging contract paraprofessionals.  Guideline 9.1 previously stated in pertinent part that “[a] non-lawyer assistant shall perform services only under the direct supervision of a lawyer authorized to practice in the State of Indiana and in the employ of the lawyer or lawyer’s employer.  Independent non-lawyer assistants, to wit, those not employed by a specific firm or by specific lawyers are prohibited.” 

Because of the contradiction between Comment 1 and Guideline 9.1, out of an abundance of caution, LAWCLERK previously precluded attorneys solely licensed in Indiana from using LAWCLERK.  Indiana was the only state.

Now the good news! 

On July 3, 2019, the Indiana Supreme Court amended Guideline 9.1 through entry of its Order Amending Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct in Cause No. 19S-MS-41, which was immediately effective.  This Order struck Guideline 9.1’s prohibition on the use of contract paraprofessionals and now provides as follows:

“A non-lawyer assistant shall perform services only under the direct supervision of a lawyer authorized to practice in the State of Indiana.  Independent non-lawyer assistants are prohibited from establishing a direct relationship with a client to provide legal services.  A lawyer is responsible for all of the professional actions of a non-lawyer assistant performing services at the lawyer’s direction and should take reasonable measures to insure that the non-lawyer assistant’s conduct is consistent with the lawyer’s obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct.”

And there is more good news!  Because Guideline 9.1 is now consistent with Rule 5.3 and Comment 1 thereto, attorneys barred and in good standing in Indiana may use LAWCLERK, which means attorneys in all 50 states may now use LAWCLERK! 

For more information, please contact the LAWCLERK Care Team at 888.479.5728 or support@lawclerk.legal.

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