Business of Law
One of the most common questions we get is if LAWCLERK is ethically compliant. The answer is unequivocally “yes!” LAWCLERK is built by attorneys for attorneys and we understand the ethical restrictions placed on you. We are the only freelance marketplace that is designed to comply with every state’s ethical rules. While you can read our 50-state survey at https://www.lawclerk.legal/ethics_whitepaper, the punchline is that the freelance lawyers on LAWCLERK work in a paraprofessional capacity for the hiring attorney, thereby allowing attorneys to harness the skill and knowledge of freelance attorneys from across the country.
While the definition of the practice of law is established by law and varies from one jurisdiction to another, the courts and bar associations unanimously agree that the purpose of the prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law is to protect the public from receiving legal services from unqualified persons.
Every state other than California has adopted the Model Rules, although some states have modified the Model Rules in their adoption or have not adopted the most recent amendments to the Model Rules. Model Rule 5.3, titled “Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer,” and Model Rule 5.5, titled “Unauthorized Practice of Law; Multijurisdictional Practice of Law,” are most pertinent to the analysis of what constitutes the unauthorized practice of law.
The Model Rules balance the need for attorneys to utilize paraprofessional services while ensuring that the public is not unknowingly receiving legal advice from unqualified professionals. The Comments to Model Rules 5.3 and 5.5 provide that:
Consistent with the Model Rules, LAWCLERK balances the need for attorneys to maintain cost-effective legal services while meeting the public’s need to ensure that they are not unknowingly receiving legal advice from unqualified people. To this end, each attorney utilizing the services of a freelance attorney (we call them “Lawclerks”) through LAWCLERK must execute the following agreement:
I am a duly licensed attorney in good-standing and I agree to fully comply with the following rules regarding the use of Lawclerk services.
1. I shall have sole professional responsibility for the work product of the Lawclerk.
2. I will supervise the Lawclerk’s performance of services on the assigned project to ensure compliance with the applicable Rules of Professional Conduct.
3. I will establish and maintain the relationship with my client.
4. The Lawclerk shall have no contact with my client, including without limitation no email, telephone, skype, web, social media, or in-person contact.
5. The Lawclerk shall not appear in court or any other judicial or administrative body on behalf of my client.
6. I will not ask or otherwise cause the Lawclerk to serve or otherwise disseminate the Lawclerk’s work product or any other documents to anyone other than me.
7. I will not ask or otherwise cause the Lawclerk to sign or file any documents with any court or administrative body.
8. The Lawclerk shall have no contact with opposing counsel, witnesses, or other persons potentially involved in the project for which the Lawclerk has been engaged, including without limitation no email, telephone, skype, web, social media, or in-person contact.
9. If required by my engagement agreement with my client or applicable law, I have obtained my client’s consent to utilize the services of a Lawclerk.
10. I have sole responsibility for determining the fee charged to my client for legal services. The Lawclerk shall not have any involvement in determining the fee I charge my client for the Lawclerk’s services.
11. All payment for Lawclerk services shall be completed through www.lawclerk.legal.
Additionally, LAWCLERK imposes the following requirements on its users:
LAWCLERK thereby requires that the attorney agree to remain solely responsible for the attorney-client relationship and the legal advice provided by the attorney to his/her client. Thus, while the attorney may obtain a legal memorandum, a draft pleading, or other legal services from a Lawclerk, the Lawclerk will have no direct contact with the attorney’s client, the Lawclerk will be supervised by the attorney, and the attorney will retain sole responsibility for the Lawclerk’s work product and the attorney’s ultimate use of such work product.
 See Model Rules Comment 5.5(2).
 See id.
 The date of adoption can be found at: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct/alpha_list_state_adopting_model_rules.html.
 The American Bar Association’s (the “ABA”) comparison of Model Rule 5.3 to each state’s adopted form of Model Rule 5.3 as of September 15, 2016 can be found at https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/professional_responsibility/mrpc_5_3.authcheckdam.pdf. The ABA’s comparison of Model Rule 5.5 to each state’s form of Model Rule 5.5 as of September 15, 2016 can be found at: https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/professional_responsibility/recommendations.authcheckdam.pdf.
 See Model Rules Comment 5.5(2).
 See Model Rules Comment 5.3(3).