LAWCLERK™ - Where Attorneys Go To Hire Freelance Lawyers
LAWCLERK's Compliance With the Unauthorized Practice of Law Rules
LAWCLERK is a marketplace through which persons holding a law degree (“Lawclerks”) may be engaged in the capacity of a paraprofessional (verses as a lawyer) by attorneys that are admitted to and in good standing with their respective state’s bar association (“Attorneys”), to provide discrete legal-related services, such as the preparation of memorandums, pleadings, written discovery, and agreements. This memorandum addresses why Lawclerk.legal and its use by Lawclerks and Attorneys, which encourages cost-effective delivery of legal services and reduces the spiraling cost of civil litigation,1 does not constitute the unauthorized practice of law.
While the definition of the practice of law is established by law and varies from one jurisdiction to another,2 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.3
Because of the divergent definitions of what constitutes the practice of law, this memorandum undertakes a state by state analysis of how Lawclerk.legal fits within the unauthorized practice of law framework for every state other than Indiana. However, the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct (the “Model Rules”), as well as other professional organizations’ guidelines provide overarching guidance that should first be considered.
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.4 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.5
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 and as shall be developed herein, Lawclerk.legal similarly balances the need for Attorneys to obtain paraprofessional services 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 Lawclerk through Lawclerk.legal 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.
Additionally, Lawclerk.legal imposes the following requirements on its Attorneys and
(i) complete a conflicts check and review the applicable state’s conflict laws and affirm that he or she does not have any conflict and may complete the Project; and (ii) execute a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement.
Lawclerk.legal 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.
Lawclerk.legal complies with the requirements of Model Rules 5.3 or 5.5. Model Rule 5.3 is titled “Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyers Assistance” and provides:
With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer:
Supervision designed to ensure that nonlawyers do not provide legal advice or otherwise violate the Rules of Professional Conduct is the key to Model Rule 5.3. By precluding any contact with an Attorney’s clients, opposing counsel, witnesses, or any other party to the project for which the Lawclerk has been engaged, Lawclerk.legal eliminates the greatest concern addressed by Model Rule 5.3. Lawclerk.legal also requires, as more fully set forth above, conflict checks, an acknowledgment that the Lawclerk has reviewed and will comply with the applicable state’s Rules of Professional Conduct, an agreement by the Attorney to supervise the Lawclerk, and an acknowledgement by the Attorney that s/he is solely responsible for the Lawclerk’s work product. These restrictions and requirements are designed to satisfy not only the actual text of Model Rule 5.3, but the policy behind it.
Comment 1 to Model Rule 5.3 discusses the attorneys’ responsibilities for paraprofessionals that are engaged within or outside of a firm providing:
Paragraph (a) requires lawyers with managerial authority within a law firm to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that nonlawyers in the firm and nonlawyers outside the firm who work on firm matters act in a way compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer. See Comment  to Rule 1.1 (retaining lawyers outside the firm) and Comment  to Rule 5.1 (responsibilities with respect to lawyers within a firm). Paragraph (b) applies to lawyers who have supervisory authority over such nonlawyers within or outside the firm. Paragraph (c) specifies the circumstances in which a lawyer is responsible for the conduct of such nonlawyers within or outside the firm that would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer.
Comment 2 to Model Rule 5.3 under the heading “Nonlawyers Within the Firm” contemplates attorneys use of paraprofessionals, providing:
Attorneys generally employ assistants in their practice, including secretaries, investigators, law student interns, and paraprofessionals. Such assistants, whether employees or independent contractors, act for the lawyer in rendition of the lawyer’s professional services. A lawyer must give such assistants appropriate instruction and supervision concerning the ethical aspects of their employment, particularly regarding the obligation not to disclose information relating to representation of the client, and should be responsible for their work product. The measures employed in supervising nonlawyers should take account of the fact that they do not have legal training and are not subject to professional discipline.
Comment 3 to Model Rule 5.3 under the heading: “Nonlawyers Outside the Firm” expressly address the engagement of nonlawyers outside the firm and provide as follows:
A lawyer may use nonlawyers outside the firm to assist the lawyer in rendering legal services to the client. Examples include the retention of an investigative or paraprofessional service, hiring a document management company to create and maintain a database for complex litigation, sending client documents to a third party for printing or scanning, and using an Internet-based service to store client information. When using such services outside the firm, a lawyer must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the services are provided in a manner that is compatible with the lawyer’s professional obligations. The extent of this obligation will depend upon the circumstances, including the education, experience and reputation of the nonlawyer; the nature of the services involved; the terms of any arrangements concerning the protection of client information; and the legal and ethical environments of the jurisdictions in which the services will be performed, particularly with regard to confidentiality. See also Rules 1.1 (competence), 1.2 (allocation of authority), 1.4 (communication with client), 1.6
(confidentiality), 5.4(a) (professional independence of the lawyer), and 5.5(a) (unauthorized practice of law). When retaining or directing a nonlawyer outside the firm, a lawyer should communicate directions appropriate under the circumstances to give reasonable assurance that the nonlawyer’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer.
The addition of Comment 5.3(3) and the change from “nonlawyer assistants” to “nonlawyer assistance” in 2012 served to highlight that attorneys have an obligation to make reasonable efforts to ensure that nonlawyers that assist them act in a manner that is consistent with the attorneys’ professional obligations, whether they are employed or contractual paralegals, assistants within a law firm, or others engaged from outside the firm.8
Model Rule 5.5 is titled “Unauthorized Practice of Law; Multijurisdictional Practice of
Law” and provides in relevant part:
Comment 2 to Model Rule 5.5 expounds as follows:
The definition of the practice of law is established by law and varies from one jurisdiction to another. Whatever the definition, limiting the practice of law to members of the bar protects the public against rendition of legal services by unqualified persons. This Rule does not prohibit a lawyer from employing the services of paraprofessionals and delegating functions to them, so long as the lawyer supervises the delegated work and retains responsibility for their work. See Rule 5.3.
Similar to the analysis under Model Rule 5.3, as the Attorney has sole responsibility for the Lawclerk’s work product and the Lawclerk is precluded from having any contact with an Attorney’s clients, opposing counsel, witnesses, or any other party to the project for which the Lawclerk has been engaged, the Lawclerk is precluded from providing legal advice to an
Attorney’s client, thereby satisfying both the requirements imposed in Model Rule 5.3, as well as the policy behind the rule.
Beyond the Model Rules, the services to be provided by Lawclerks to Attorneys are consistent with the parameters set forth in the Second Edition of the American Jurisprudence addressing the services that may be provided by a law clerk:
The functions of an unlicensed law clerk should be limited to work of a preparatory nature, such as research, investigation of details, assemblage of data, and like work that will enable the attorney/employer to carry a given matter to a conclusion through his or her own examination, approval, or additional effort; the activities of a law clerk do not constitute the practice of law so long as they are thus limited. [footnote omitted] On the other hand, an unlicensed law clerk who engages in activities requiring legal knowledge or training, such as handling probate matters, examination of abstract titles, and preparation of wills, leases, mortgages, bills of sales, or contracts, without supervision from his or her employer, thereby engages in the unauthorized
practice of law.
Further, while paralegals and legal assistants may not serve as Lawclerks, the guidelines, rules, and case law analyzing the services that may be provided by legal assistants and paralegals is nonetheless instructive as to what services may be employed by a paraprofessional without engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. For instance, the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) has formulated its Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility (the “NALA Code”), as well as Model Standards and Guidelines for Utilization of Paralegals (the “NALA Guidelines”) that its members must follow to remain a member in good stating with the organization.10 Most applicable here, the NALA Guidelines, citing to Model Rule 5.3, provide that “a paralegal is allowed to perform any task which is properly delegated and supervised by a lawyer, as long as the lawyer is ultimately responsible to the client and assumes complete professional responsibility for the work product.”11
The NALA Code further instructs that the attorney and not the paralegal must form and maintain the direct relationship with the client and that the paralegal is prohibited from: (i) engaging in, encouraging, or contributing to any act that could constitute the practice of law; (ii) establishing attorney-client relationships, setting fees, giving legal opinions or advice, or representing a client before a court or agency unless specifically authorized by that court or agency; and (iii) engaging in conduct or taking any action that would assist or involve the lawyer in a violation of professional ethics or giving the appearance of impropriety.12 However, such restrictions do not alter the requirement that a paralegal must use discretion and professional judgment commensurate with his knowledge and experience, but must not render independent legal judgment in place of a lawyer; rather, any legal opinion may only be rendered to the attorney.13
The ABA Standing Committee on Paralegals has additionally prepared its Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Legal Assistant Services (the “ABA Guidelines”). While the ABA Guidelines refer to paralegals, the term is intended to include legal assistants.14 ABA Guideline No. 2 states that “[p]rovided the lawyer maintains responsibility for the work product, a lawyer may delegate to a paralegal any task normally performed by the lawyer” unless there is a statute, court rule, administrative rule or regulation, controlling authority, the applicable rule of professional conduct of the jurisdiction in which the attorney practices, or the Guidelines that expressly precludes the attorney from delegating the specific task to a nonlawyer.15 The ABA Guidelines then identify three responsibilities that may not be delegated to a paralegal: (i) responsibility for establishing a lawyer -client relationship; (ii) responsibility for establishing the amount of a fee to be charged for a legal service; and (iii) responsibility for a legal opinion rendered to a client.16 Conversely, the preparation of factual investigation and research, legal research, and the preparation of legal documents are identified as tasks that may be delegated to paralegals subject to appropriate attorney supervision.17
Consistent with the foregoing legal authorities and guidelines, Lawclerk.legal requires the Attorney to supervise the Lawclerk and to maintain responsibility for the Lawclerk’s work product. However, Lawclerk.legal is far more restrictive than the foregoing guidelines for paralegals, law clerks, and legal assistants and more protective of the public as it precludes Lawclerks from engaging in any contact with clients, opposing counsel, witnesses, or any other party to the project for which the Lawclerk has been engaged.
14See ABA Guidelines, at Preamble and n. 1, available at https://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/paralegals/downloads/modelguidelines.pdf.
Every state other than California has adopted a form of Model Rules 5.3 and 5.5. While there is some variance between the state’s adopted versions of these Model Rules, they all are drafted to further the central purpose of ensuring that the public is not unknowingly receiving legal advice from someone other than lawyers properly admitted and in good standing within the jurisdiction.
Section 34-3-5 of the 1975 Code of Alabama, titled “who may practice as attorneys” states in pertinent part:
is practicing law. 
The foregoing statute was enacted to “ensure that ‘laymen would not serve others in a representative capacity in areas requiring skill and judgment of a licensed attorney.’”19
Alabama expressly authorizes eligible20 law students to prepare pleadings, interview, advise, and negotiate for a client while rendering assistance to the attorney of record, and appear in civil and criminal matters if the attorney of record and the client consent in writing and the attorney of record supervises the law clerk.21 Additionally, beyond Alabama’s adoption of Model Rule 5.3,22 the Alabama Association of Paralegals, Inc. has adopted the NALA Code further establishing that legal assistants and paralegals may perform the tasks delegated to them subject to the supervision of the attorney and the above-discussed restrictions on the attorney-client relationship.23
Alabama courts have held that a nonlawyer engages in the unauthorized practice of law when he performs activities customarily executed by licensed attorneys while not under the direct supervision of a licensed lawyer in good standing, such as an executor filing a complaint on behalf of the estate,24 completing blanks in form deeds and giving legal advice or expressing opinions as to the effect of legal documents at closings conducted by title companies,25 and filing pleadings with the court on behalf of another person or corporation irrespective of the existence of a power of attorney.26
Lawclerk.legal imposes restrictions on its Lawclerks and Attorneys that are more restrictive than the restrictions imposed on eligible law students under Section 34-3-6 of the Alabama Code and more restrictive than the NALA Code requirements for paralegals.
19Armstrong v. Brown Serv. Funeral Home West Chapel, 700 So.2d 1379, 1381 (Ct. App. Ala 1997) (citing State ex rel. Porter v. Alabama Ass’n of Credit Executives, 338 So.2d 812, 814 (Ala. 1976)); see also Godwin v. McKnight, 784 So.2d 1014 (Ala. 2000) (citing Armstrong v. Brown Service Funeral Home West Chapel, 700 So.2d 1379 (Ala. Civ. App. 1997), Derek A. Denckla, The Unauthorized Practice of Law: an Overview of the Legal and Ethical Parameters, 67 Fordham L.Rev. 2581 (1999); L. Bruce Ables, Unauthorized Practice of Law, 56 Ala. Law. 288 (1995) (documenting Alabama’s rampant problem with the unauthorized practice of law).
25See Coffee County Abstracto and Title Co. v. State ex rel Norwood, 445 So.2d 852 (Ala. 1984).
26See Franklin v. Max Federal Credit Union, 168 So.3d 83 (Ct. App. Ala. 2014); see also Beasley v. Poole, 63 So.3d
Lawclerk.legal further complies with Rule 5.3 of the Alabama Model Rules of Professional Conduct and is in accord with the case law determining what constitutes the unauthorized practice of law in Alabama.
In Ethics Opinion No. 73-1, the Ethics Committee of the Alaska Bar Association was asked “whether a legal assistant who investigates workmen’s compensation claims, directly deals by telephone with the claim managers and agents of insurance companies regarding the settlement of such claims and who additionally dictates letters of correspondence setting forth his employer’s position regarding their settlement is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law if at all times his status as a legal assistant is fully disclosed to the other party with whom he is dealing and his activities are consistently supervised and reviewed by a lawyer admitted to practice law in the State of Alaska.”27 Citing to Canons 3528 and 4729 of the Canons of Professional Ethics (subsequently replaced by the Model Rules), Ethics Opinion 73-1 provides that:
As further pointed out in American Bar Association Opinion 316, 1967, a lawyer may employ non-lawyers to do any task for him except counsel clients about law matters, engage directly in the practice of law, or appear in court or in formal proceedings a part of the judicial process, so long as it is the attorney who takes the work and vouches for it to the client and is responsible to the client. While a lawyer cannot delegate his professional responsibility to a law student employed in his office, ‘[He] may avail himself of the assistance of the student in many of the field of the lawyer’s work, such as examination of case law, finding and interviewing witnesses, making collections of claims, examining court records, delivering papers, conveying important messages, and other similar matters . . . . The student in all his work must act as agent for the lawyer employing him, who must supervise his work and be responsible for his good conduct. . . . Any such employee negotiating adjustments must report proposed settlements to the lawyer for final decision.’ American Bar Association Opinion 85, 1932. Drinker, Legal Ethics, 1954 at page 180 also states that it is not unethical for a lawyer to employ a layman to negotiate
27Alaska Bar Association Ethics Opinion 73-1 adopted October 6, 1973, available at https://www.alaskabar.org/servlet/content/indexes_aeot__73_1.html.
insurance adjustments for the lawyer’s approval provided that such services do not constitute the practice of law and the layman’s compensation is not a proportion of the lawyer’s fee.
It is, of course, true that that lay assistant is, in all cases, bound by the Code of Professional Responsibility, and the attorney who employs the lay assistant will be personally subject to discipline if the lay assistant violates a disciplinary rule. Also, disclosure that the lay assistant is not a lawyer must be made in all transactions in such a manner as to assure that that fact is known and understood by the person with whom the lay assistant is dealing.
In determining that two paralegals had not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, the Alaska Court of Appeals discussed: (i) the Comments to Rule 5.5 of the Alaska Rules of Professional Conduct, noting that the comments expressly state that “this rule ‘does not prohibit a lawyer from employing the services of paralegals and delegating functions to them, so long as the lawyer supervises the delegated work and retains responsibility for their work;’” (ii) the ABA Guidelines which state that “paralegals may properly ‘communicate a lawyer’s legal advice to a client’ (as long as they do not ‘interpret or expand on that advice’), and that paralegals may also properly participate in ‘preparing the lawyer’s legal opinion’—that is, participate in the process of formulating the lawyer’s legal advice, so long as the lawyer makes the final assessment of what that advice should be;” and (iii) the fact that law clerks working for the trial and appellate courts participate in the formulation of court decisions even though they may not be authorized to practice law, and concluded that the paralegals’ conduct functioned within these boundaries and while they had direct contact and communications with the client about her case, they were always under the ultimate supervision of the attorney.31
Consistent with the foregoing ethics opinion and case law, Lawclerks can only provide the services that are delegated to them and supervised by the Attorney. The Attorney always retains responsibility for the Lawclerk’s work and only the Attorney may provide legal advice to the Attorney’s client.
Arizona is one of the few states to have formulated a precise definitions of both the practice of law and the unauthorized practice of law. Rule 31 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Arizona provides in pertinent part as follows:
(a) Supreme Court Jurisdiction Over the Practice of Law
30Alaska Bar Association Ethics Opinion 73-1 adopted October 6, 1973 (emphasis added).
Applying Rule 31, Arizona courts have found the unauthorized practice of law where: (i) a nonlawyer represents a client in a judicial proceeding or mediation;35 (ii) real estate agents and title companies prepare deeds, mortgages, releases, or other instruments affecting the obligations or rights between parties other than the title company irrespective of whether the title company has a lawyer as the title company’s attorney that is representing the title company, not the customer;36 (iii) a lawyer that is not admitted to the Arizona bar, but is admitted to practice in tribal court, represents clients in matters outside of the tribal jurisdiction, maintains an office address outside of the boundaries of the tribal jurisdiction, and presents himself on his letterhead and otherwise as a “J.D.” and an “attorney”;37 and (iv) a lawyer suspended from the practice of law
acts without supervision of an active member of the State Bar of Arizona while employed as a legal assistant/paralegal.”38
Consistent with Rule 31 and the applicable case law, Lawclerks can only provide the services that are delegated to them and supervised by an Attorney, cannot appear in court, and cannot have any communication with the client or opposing counsel. The Attorneys always retains responsibility for the Lawclerk’s work and only the Attorney may provide legal advice to the Attorney’s client. Further, the fact that Arizona permits attorneys to engage suspended or disbarred lawyers to provide paraprofessional services as long as the suspended or disbarred lawyer acts under the supervision of a lawyer in good standing with the Arizona State Bar further confirms that Lawclerks do not engage in the unauthorized practice of law by completing projects delegated to them by an Attorney that is responsible for their work product and for their supervision.
In applying Rules 5.3 and 5.5 of the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct, the Supreme Court of Arkansas has emphasized that “it is clear that, while a lawyer may delegate certain tasks to his assistants, he or she, as supervising lawyer, has ultimate responsibility for compliance by the nonlawyer with the applicable provisions of the Model Rules.39 Finding that a lawyer had violated Rule 5.5(b), among others, the Supreme Court of Arkansas focused on the fact that the attorney had permitted his assistants to engage in the following unsupervised tasks: (i) direct communications and providing settlement advice to clients; (ii) referring to firm clients as the assistants’ clients in correspondence sent to third parties; (iii) utilizing the lawyer’s signature stamp, thereby acting in the attorney’s stead; and (iv) negotiating settlements with insurance companies on behalf of the firm’s clients.40
Consistent with the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Mays decision, Lawclerk.legal requires the Attorney’s supervision of the Lawclerk, the Attorney retains ultimate responsibility for the Lawclerk’s work, and prohibits the Lawclerk from having any direct contact with the Attorney’s clients, opposing counsel, witnesses, or any other party to the project for which the Lawclerk has been engaged.
Section 6125 of the California Business and Professions Code states that “[n]o person shall practice law in California unless the person is an active member of the State Bar”41 and Rule 1-
38See In re Gallego, 2012 WL 5286893 *1 (Ariz. 2012).
300 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct is titled “Unauthorized practice of law” and provides:
The general rule is that while a person may represent him/herself and his/her own interests without being a member of the California state bar, only active members of the California state bar may practice law for another person in California.42 California’s prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law serves to protect the public, the courts, and litigants that rely on attorneys by assuring the competency of those performing legal services.43
While the “practice of law” is not defined by statute, the California courts have explained that the practice of law is “the doing and performing services in a court of justice in any matter depending therein throughout its various stages and in conformity with the adopted rules of procedure,” including legal advice, legal instruments, and contract preparation irrespective of whether such services are rendered in the course of litigation.44
In Landlords Professional Services, the court examined whether Landlords Professional Services, a company that offered eviction services, had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.45 In its analysis, the court examined other jurisdictions’ decisions on “do-it-yourself” legal services and manuals and concluded that the sale of “do-it yourself” kits and manuals does not constitute the unauthorized practice of law, nor does the provision of related clerical services (i.e., making forms available for a client’s use, completing the forms at the specific direction of the client, and filing and serving the documents at the direction of the client).46 However, because Landlords Professional Services’ nonlawyers interviewed their clients and provided client-specific advice regarding eviction procedures and legal rights, as well as unlawful detainer actions, Landlords Professional Services engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.47 Having determined that Landlords Professional Services engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, the trial court granted, and the appellate court affirmed, the following permanent injunction:
Defendants, their agents, officers, employees and representatives are enjoined from engaging in or performing directly or indirectly any and all of the following acts:
The Landlords Professional Services decision illustrates why Lawclerk.legal does not violate the unauthorized practice of law. In Lawclerk.legal, only the Attorney provides advice to his/her client, only the Attorney maintains the attorney-client relationship, and the Lawclerk only provides services to the Attorney, which services are undertaken at the direction of, and under the direct supervision of, the Attorney.
In Birbrower, the court held that where a law firm based in New York that did not have any attorneys barred in California and did not associate with a member in good standing of the California bar at the time the significant pre-litigation services were rendered in the geographic bounds of California had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.49 However, reasoning that California’s unauthorized practice of law statute did not regulate the practice of law in other states, the court concluded that it did not bar recovery of compensation for services that the New York-
barred attorneys had performed in New York. In fashioning a test for what constituted the practice of law in California, the court reasoned that:
the practice of law ‘in California’ entails sufficient contact with the California client to render the nature of the legal service a clear legal representation. In addition to a quantitative analysis, we must consider the nature of the unlicensed lawyer's activities in the state. Mere fortuitous or attenuated contacts will not sustain a finding that the unlicensed lawyer practiced law ‘in California.’ The primary inquiry is whether the unlicensed lawyer engaged in sufficient activities in the state, or created a continuing relationship with the California client that included legal duties and obligations.
Notably, the Birbrower court’s analysis not only focused on the relationship between the client and the non-barred lawyer, but additionally discussed the exceptions for attorneys admitted to practice law in California on a temporary basis (pro hac) subject to affiliating with a barred attorney in good standing in California.51
The Birbrower analysis underscores why Lawclerk.legal does violate the unauthorized practice of law. In Lawclerk.legal, the attorney-client relationship occurs between a duly-licensed Attorney in good standing and his/her California client. There is no contact between the Attorney’s client and the Lawclerk. Further, the Lawclerk solely provides the services delegated by the Attorney, which services are solely provided to the Attorney (not the Attorney’s client).
While Lawclerks are not paralegals, instead having graduated from law school, the statutory framework defining the permissible scope of services that may be provided by California paralegals is nonetheless instructive.52 Section 6450 of the California Business and Professions Code entitled “Paralegal defined; prohibited activities; qualifications; continuing legal education” provides in pertinent part:
planning, development, and management; legal research; interviewing clients; fact gathering and retrieving information; drafting and analyzing legal documents; collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent decision and recommendation to the supervising attorney; and representing clients before a state or federal administrative agency if that representation is permitted by statute, court rule, or administrative rule or regulation.
[Subsections (c) and (d) address what certifications a paralegal must possess and what continuing education must be completed.]
detainer assistant as defined in Section 6400, unless the person is a person described in subdivision (a).
In Jorgensen, the California State Bar determined that a lawyer assisted a paralegal in the unauthorized practice of law where a paralegal company named Legally Yours hired a lawyer to provide legal services to its clients; however, it was Legally Yours (not the lawyer) that: (i) solicited and engaged the clients; (ii) controlled the supervision of its clients’ cases, evaluated the legal needs of its clients, and undertook decision-making regarding legal matters; (iii) reserved the right to make tactical and procedural decisions for its clients; and (iv) obtained a special power of attorney from its clients to settle client claims.54
Notably, Lawclerk.legal imposes greater restrictions than Section 6450 places on paralegals and precludes the type of violations cited in Jorgensen as Lawclerks are precluded from engaging in any direct client contact, communicating with the opposing counsel, and appearing before any tribunal or court. The attorney-client relationship is established and maintained by the Attorney and only the Attorney determines legal strategy and provides legal advice to his/her clients. Thus, while Lawclerks are not paralegals under California law, Section 6450 further confirms that the limited services provided by Lawclerks under the supervision of the Attorneys do not constitute the unauthorized practice of law.
The Colorado Supreme Court has defined the unauthorized practice of law as “acting ‘in a representative capacity in protecting, enforcing, or defending the legal rights and duties of another and in counselling, advising and assisting him in connection with these rights and duties....’”55
Applying the foregoing definition, Colorado courts have “held that an unlicensed person engages in the unauthorized practice of law by offering legal advice about a specific case, drafting or selecting legal pleadings for another’s use in a judicial proceeding without the supervision of an attorney, or holding oneself out as the representative of another in a legal action.”56
In Stewart, a lawyer was held to have violated Rules 5.3(b) and (c) and 5.5(b) of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct where the nonlawyer assistant conducted the first meeting with the clients, obtained the retainers, and provided legal advice directly to the clients.57 Similarly, in Calvert, a lawyer was held to have violated Rules 5.3(b) and 5.5(b) of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct where the lawyer: (i) failed to work on a dog bite case for which he
signed the contingency fee agreement, instead giving complete responsibility for providing the client with legal advice, advocating in writing for the client, negotiating a settlement, and attending a court hearing with the client to his law clerk/paralegal; and (ii) allowed, without a modicum of supervision, the law clerk/paralegal to represent clients in a bankruptcy matter and to use the lawyer’s electronic signature on filings the lawyer had not reviewed.58
Consistent with the foregoing authority, Formal Ethics Opinion No. 79 states that the use of paralegals, law clerks, and other legal assistants that are not licensed lawyers to appear at depositions, hearings, and administrative proceedings to represent the lawyer’s client constitutes the unauthorized practice of law.59 Nothing in the opinion indicates that paralegals, law clerks, and other legal assistants may not complete legal research and prepare pleadings under the direct supervision of a barred lawyer in good standing where the work product is provided solely to the lawyer for his/her review and use.
Consistent therewith, the Colorado Bar Association has developed guidelines divided into twenty-one specialty areas of practice that provide a general framework of potential tasks that can or should be performed by a supervised paralegal in an effort to assist with work flow.60 By way of example, under the “Civil Litigation Paralegal” area of practice, the following delegable tasks, subject to lawyer supervision, are identified:
physical evidence; c. Place and monitor “litigation hold” on all evidence, hard and electronic files; d. Locate and interview lay and expert witnesses, obtain statements and prepare written reports; e. Arrange for outside investigator, if necessary; f. Review and organize data; establish concept and design for document management system; assist in determining whether to use litigation support software, and the extent of such use; g. Analyze and summarize all data; prepare necessary chronologies; h. Obtain, review, and organize damage information; calculate damages and prepare, maintain and update damage summaries; and i. Begin trial/hearing notebooks.
Orders, in accordance with Rule 26 where required; and e. Answers/Responses to discovery requests (e.g., interrogatories, request for production, request for admissions).
The foregoing case law, coupled with the Colorado Guidelines, illustrates the broad scope of legal services that may be delegated to a paraprofessional as long as the paraprofessional is
supervised by a barred lawyer. In Lawclerk.legal, the Lawclerk, who has superior legal knowledge to a paralegal, only engages with the Attorney and the Attorney is responsible for the Lawclerk’s work product, thereby removing an ability for the paraprofessional to provide legal advice to a client. The Colorado courts have also repeatedly held that a suspended or disbarred lawyers may perform services as a paralegal,62 further evidencing that Lawclerks do not engage in the unauthorized practice of law by completing projects delegated to them by the Attorney that is responsible for their work product and for their supervision.
Section 51-88 of the Connecticut General Statutes prohibits a person that has not been admitted as an attorney to the Connecticut Bar from providing legal services unless such person is providing legal services pursuant to statute or a rule of the Superior Court.63 Rule 2-44A of the Connecticut Rules for the Superior Court defines the practice of law in pertinent part as follows:
Section (c) expressly addresses nonlawyer assistance stating “nothing in this rule shall affect the ability of nonlawyer assistants to act under the supervision of a lawyer in compliance with Rule 5.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.”64
Connecticut courts have held that a lay person, including a paralegal, acting without the supervision of a lawyer engages in the unauthorized practice of law when s/he prepares legal documents for others.65 In reaching this conclusion, the courts emphasize that the public must be protected from the “potentially severe economic and emotional consequences that may flow from erroneous advice given by persons untrained in the law.”66 They have further explained that while Practice Book § 2-44(c) allows for work to be done by a paralegal under the supervision of the lawyer, when the lawyer does not supervise the paralegal and the paralegal engages in direct contact with the client and negotiates a settlement with the opposing party, the lawyer violates Rule 5.3 of the Connecticut Rules of Professional Conduct.67
Similarly, the Connecticut Supreme Court has held that where a nonlawyer engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where he operated a business named “Doc-U-Prep” that prepared legal documents for nonlawyers to file pro se in their own legal proceedings based on questionnaires that his clients had completed and returned to him.68 In reaching its conclusion, the court stated “[i]t is of importance to the welfare of the public that these manifold customary functions [of practicing law] be performed by persons possessed of adequate learning and skill and of sound moral character, acting at all times under the heavy trust obligation to clients which rests upon all attorneys.”69
As discussed above, Lawclerk.legal not only complies with Rule 5.3, but by precluding Lawclerks from having any client contact or contact with the opposing party and requiring the
66Id. at n. 6.
Attorney to be responsible for the Lawclerk’s work product, Lawclerk.legal protects the public from the receipt of “erroneous advice given by persons untrained in the law.”
The Delaware Supreme Court has defined the practice of law as follows:
In general, one is deemed to be practicing law whenever he furnishes to another advice or service under circumstances which imply the possession and use of legal knowledge and skill. The practice of law includes ‘all advice to clients, and all actions taken for them in matters connected with the law’ ... and the exercise of such professional skill certainly includes the pursuit, as an advocate for another, of a legal remedy within the jurisdiction of a quasi judicial tribunal.
In applying this definition, Delaware courts and the Delaware Office of Disciplinary Counsel have found the unauthorized practice of law where: (i) a paralegal, acting through his own company and without lawyer supervision, instructs the paralegal’s client (not the lawyer’s client) on the law and drafts legal documents for the client;71 (ii) someone other than a lawyer licensed to practice law in Delaware conducts a closing of a sale or refinancing of Delaware real property;72
Conversely, the Delaware Office of Disciplinary Counsel has determined that the nonlawyer did not engage in the unauthorized practice of law where: (i) a paralegal (a) forwarded documents to a court, (b) requested scheduling of a hearing in a writing clearly identifying herself as a paralegal, (c) gathered factual information on a case and drafted legal documents under the supervision of a lawyer, and (d) attended a mediation session at the Family Court, where by
common practice, lawyers do not attend, and where the lawyer’s clients were not given legal advice by the paralegal;75 and (ii) a law student admitted to practice pursuant to Delaware Supreme Court Rule 56 (limited practice as legal intern) and who may have been held out as a Delaware lawyer, did not give legal advice to third-parties.76
Additionally, the Delaware Supreme Court has repeatedly held that a suspended or disbarred lawyer may be engaged to perform tasks usually performed by law clerks or paralegals as long as the suspended or disbarred lawyer does not have any contact with clients, witnesses, or prospective witnesses.77
Consistent with the foregoing authority, Lawclerk.legal does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law because all services provided by the Lawclerk are provided at the direction of, and under the supervision of, a barred Attorney, the Lawclerk does not provide legal advice to the client, the Lawclerk has no client contact and the Attorney retains sole responsibility for the Lawclerk’s work product.
District of Columbia.
Rule 49 of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals is titled the “Unauthorized Practice of Law” and provides the general rule that “[n]o person shall engage in the practice of law in the District of Columbia or in any manner hold out as authorized or competent to practice law in the District of Columbia unless enrolled as an active member of the District of Columbia Bar, except as otherwise permitted by these Rules.”78 Rule 49(b)(2) then defines the “practice of law” as:
the provision of professional legal advice or services where there is a client relationship of trust or reliance. One is presumed to be practicing law when engaging in any of the following conduct on behalf of another:
The District of Columbia Committee on Unauthorized Practice of Law has issued several opinions providing guidance regarding whether Lawclerk.legal complies with Rule 49. For instance, in Opinion 6-99, the committee concluded that despite the language in Rule 49(F), “legal staffing companies do not engage in the practice of law by providing attorneys to legal services organizations so long as: (1) an attorney with an attorney-client relationship with the prospective client selects the temporary attorney; (2) the temporary attorney is directed or supervised by a lawyer representing the client; and (3) the staffing company does not otherwise engage in the practice of law within the meaning of Rule 49 or attempt to supervise the practice of law by the attorneys it places.”80 Consistent therewith, the Attorneys selects the Lawclerk, the Attorney maintains the attorney-client relationship, and the Lawclerk is supervised by the lawyer.
In Opinion 16-05, the committee examined, among other inquiries, whether a contract lawyer that is hired to provide paralegal work or other work that calls for little or no application of legal knowledge, training or judgment, and that is supervised by a member of the District of Columbia bar, engages in the unauthorized practice of law. In response to this inquiry the committee explained that the answer generally depends on whether the person is being held out, and billed out, as a lawyer or as a paralegal.81
Rule 49 does not regulate the hiring of a person as a paralegal or a law clerk, even though the person may be admitted to the practice of law in another jurisdiction. When a person is hired and billed as a lawyer, however, the person is generally engaged in the practice of law, and is certainly being held out as authorized or competent to practice law. Clients would reasonably assume that
80See Opinion 6-99, issued June 30, 1999,
available at http://www.dccourts.gov/internet/documents/rule49_opinion6.pdf.
the person held out as a contract lawyer performs actions that are different in degree, if not in kind, from those performed by paralegals or law clerks, and that the cost of services performed by contract lawyers reflects the legal training and judgment that they bring to the work they perform. When a client is paying for the services of a lawyer, and not a paralegal or a law clerk, the person providing the services and the person’s employer must comply with Rule 49.
In addition, if a contract lawyer is supervised not as a paralegal or law clerk but as a subordinate attorney would be supervised, the contract lawyer is engaged in the practice of law.
In Lawclerk.legal, the Attorney establishes the payment for the services performed by the Lawclerk, which are not established based on the billable hour, and the Attorney’s clients are not charged for the services based on the billable hour. Thus, not only are Lawclerks “held out” as paraprofessionals (not lawyers), but they are not paid or billed in the same manner as lawyers.
In Opinion 21-12, the committee analyzed whether companies that assist lawyers with document review, including offering lawyers to staff document review projects, providing physical space at which the document review may be conducted, providing computers for document review, and providing servers for hosting the documents to be reviewed, are engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.83 The committee offered the following pertinent principals. First, companies that provide lawyers for document review must abide by Rule 49 and Opinion 6-99, meaning that the final selection of lawyers to staff a document review project must be made by a member of the District of Columbia bar with an attorney-client relationship with the client, the document review lawyer’s legal work must be directed or supervised by a District of Columbia bar member who represents the client, and the discovery services company may not otherwise violate Rule 49 or attempt to supervise the document review lawyer.84 Second, discovery service companies may not provide legal advice to their clients and may not hold themselves or any lawyers on their staff as authorized to practice law in the District of Columbia.85 This opinion further illustrates that Lawclerk.legal does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law as the Attorney selects the Lawclerk, the Lawclerk does not provide legal advice to the Attorney’s clients, the Attorney supervises the Lawclerk, and Lawclerk.legal does not hold the Lawclerks out as being able to practice law.
The Florida Supreme Court has explained that:
[D]efining the practice of law must be considered in the context of our obligation to protect the public:
[I]n determining whether the giving of advice and counsel and the performance of services in legal matters for compensation constitute the practice of law it is safe to follow the rule that if the giving of such advice and performance of such services affect important rights of a person under the law, and if the reasonable protection of the rights and property of those advised and served requires that the persons giving such advice possess legal skill and a knowledge of the law greater than that possessed by the average citizen, then the giving of such advice and the performance of such services by one for another as a course of conduct constitute the practice of law. State ex rel. Florida Bar v. Sperry, 140 So.2d 587, 591 (Fla. 1962).
Further expounding, the Florida Supreme Court “emphasized that the major purpose for prohibiting the unlicensed practice of law is to protect the consuming public from being advised and represented in legal matters by unqualified persons who may put the consuming public’s interests at risk.”87 The court then found that a paralegal had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where he misled claimants and others to believe he was an lawyer, represented clients in mediations, analyzed statutory and case law and discussed it with clients, signed court-filed documents, and discussed legal documents with clients without a lawyer present.88
The Florida courts have also explained that while nonlawyers may sell legal forms and may serve as notaries and typists completing the forms with the information provided by their customers, nonlawyers engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where they provided legal advice to their customers regarding the preparation of marriage dissolutions, bankruptcy proceedings, and trust documents, among others, contacted opposing parties and lawyers for opposing parties on behalf of their customers in reference to legal matters without lawyer supervision, and advertised that their services were the equivalent of a lawyer.89
By precluding any contact with the client or other parties to the applicable matter and ensuring that the Attorney maintains full responsibility for the Lawclerk’s work product, Lawclerk.legal allows Attorneys to engage necessary paraprofessional assistance, thereby lowering legal costs, while ensuring that the “consuming public” continues to be represented by, and only receive legal advice from, the Attorney. This complies with not only the public policy goals behind the prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law, but additionally ensures compliance with Rule 4-5.3 (Responsibilities Regarding non-lawyer Assistants) and Rule 4-5.5 (Unauthorized Practice of Law) of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct.
Section 15-19-50 of the Georgia Code defines the practice of law as follows:
Georgia courts, engaging in a fact-specific inquiry, have found the following conduct to constitute the unauthorized practice of law: (i) a “nondebtor mediation firm” representing debtors under a power of attorney in negotiations with a creditor’s lawyer in an effort to reduce the amount of the debtor’s indebtedness to the creditor or to work out a payment plan;91 and (ii) a nonlawyer advising a taxpayer to plead guilty for willful evasion of Federal income taxes and subsequently appearing for the taxpayer and making a motion to withdraw the guilty plea.92
A lawyer aids a nonlawyer in the unauthorized practice of law in violation of Rule 5.5 of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct when the lawyer “creates a reasonable appearance to
90See Ga. Code Ann. § 15-19-50.
others that the lawyer has effectively substituted the legal knowledge and judgment of the nonlawyer for his or her own.”93
Georgia courts have determined that while a suspended or disbarred lawyer may serve as a law clerk or paralegal for a lawyer in good standing with the Georgia bar so long as the suspended or disbarred lawyer has no contact with the clients and appropriate supervisory mechanisms are in place, where the lawyer fails to supervise the disbarred or suspected lawyer working as a law clerk or paralegal, the supervising lawyer violates Rule 5.5 of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct.94 This is consistent with the Supreme Court of Georgia’s explanation of the public policy behind the prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law:
For public policy reasons it is important that the legal profession restrict its use of nonlawyers to those uses that would improve the quality, including the efficiency and cost-efficiency, of legal representation rather than using nonlawyers as substitutes for legal representation. Attorneys, as professionals, are ultimately responsible for maintaining the quality of the legal conversation in both the prevention and the resolution of disputes. This professional responsibility cannot be delegated to others without jeopardizing the good work that lawyers have done throughout history in meeting this responsibility.
In Advisory Opinion No. 21, the Georgia State Disciplinary Board outlined the ethical responsibilities of lawyers that employ legal assistants or paraprofessionals and permit them to deal with other lawyers, clients, and the public. In reaching its conclusions, the State Disciplinary Board emphasized that the “delegation of activities which ordinarily comprise the practice of law is proper only if the lawyer maintains a direct relationship with the client involved, supervises and directs the work delegated to the paralegal, and assumes complete ultimate professional responsibility for the work product produced by the paralegal. Supervision of the work of the paralegal by the attorney must be direct and constant to avoid any charges of aiding the unauthorized practice of law.”96
It is the opinion of this Board that the following may be delegated to nonlawyer paralegals, provided that proper and effective supervision and control by the attorney exists:
93 Formal Advisory Opinion No. 00-2 issued by the Supreme Court of Georgia, Feb. 11, 2000, available at https://www.gabar.org/barrules/handbookdetail.cfm?what=rule&id=466.
It is the opinion of the Board that the following duties should not be delegated to paralegals [all of which are also prohibited in Lawclerk.legal]:
It is the opinion of the State Disciplinary Board that there are other duties incumbent upon lawyers supervising the work of paralegals as follows:
and preserve the confidences and secrets of the firm’s clients. [EC 4-2 and DR 4-102] 
Commenting on Advisory Opinion No. 21, the Supreme Court of Georgia explained:
It is our opinion, however, that applying the lists of tasks in Advisory Opinion No. 21 in a categorical manner runs risks of both over regulation and under regulation of the use of nonlawyers and, thereby, risks both the loss of the efficiency nonlawyers can provide and the loss of adequate protection of the public from unauthorized practice. Rather than being applied categorically, these lists should instead be considered good general guidance for the more particular determination of whether the representation of the client has been turned over, effectively, to the nonlawyer by the lawyer permitting a substitution of the nonlawyer’s legal knowledge and judgment for that of his or her own. If such substitution has occurred then the lawyer is aiding the nonlawyer in the unauthorized practice of law whether or not the conduct is proscribed by any list.
Formal Advisory Opinion No. 05-9 further explains that it is ethically proper for lawyers to work for other lawyers on a temporary basis. However, firms employing temporary lawyers should: (i) carefully evaluate each proposed employment for conflicting interests and potentially conflicting interests; (ii) if conflicting or potentially conflicting interests exist, then determine if imputed disqualification rules will impute the conflict to the firm; (iii) screen each temporary
lawyer from all information relating to clients for which a temporary lawyer does not work, to the extent practicable; (iv) make sure the client is fully informed as to all matters relating to the temporary lawyer’s representation; and (v) maintain complete records on all matters upon which each temporary lawyer works.105
Beyond the satisfaction of the public policy goals, Lawclerk.legal permits Attorneys to obtain cost-effective paraprofessional assistance to perform some, but not all, of the services that the Georgia State Disciplinary Board has determined may be delegated, subject to lawyer supervision, to a paraprofessional. At all times, however, Lawclerk.legal prohibits any direct contact with the Attorney’s client and opposing counsel, thereby ensuring that only the Attorney provides legal advice to his/her client. Additionally, the Attorney is solely responsible for the Lawclerk’s work product and only the Attorney receives the Lawclerk’s work product, thereby ensuring that “the representation of the client has [not] been turned over, effectively, to the nonlawyer by the lawyer permitting a substitution of the nonlawyer’s legal knowledge and judgment for that of his or her own.” Finally, the conflicts check system allows Attorneys to evaluate whether any actual or potential conflict will arise from the engagement of the Lawclerk prior to engaging the Lawclerk.
Hawaii has not defined the practice of law as the Hawaii legislature recognizes that:
the practice of law is not limited to appearing before the courts. It consists, among other things of the giving of advice, the preparation of any document or the rendition of any service to a third party affecting the legal rights ... of such party, where such advice, drafting or rendition of service requires the use of any degree of legal knowledge, skill or advocacy.
Hawaii courts have found the unauthorized practice of law where a nonlawyer seeks to represent a corporation, a third party, or a trust.107 Additionally, addressing the issue of whether the court may tax fees for the services of extrajurisdictional legal counsel who assist local counsel in the conduct of litigation among parties, who are themselves domiciled in a different jurisdiction, the Supreme Court of Hawaii explained that the evolution of the economy from a local to a global one and the evolution of technology requires rethinking how HRS § 605-14108 is applied stating:
105 Formal Advisory Opinion No. 05-9, issued by the Supreme Court of Georgia, April 13, 2016, available athttps://www.gabar.org/barrules/handbookdetail.cfm?renderforprint=1&what=rule&id=461.
While the scope of these statutes must be expansive enough to afford the public needed protection from incompetent legal advice and counsel, the transformation of our economy from a local to a global one has generated compelling policy reasons for refraining from adopting an application so broad that a law firm, which is located outside the state of Hawai‘i, may automatically be deemed to have practiced law ‘within the jurisdiction’ merely by advising a client regarding the effect of Hawai‘i law or by ‘virtually entering’ the jurisdiction on behalf of a client via ‘telephone, fax, computer, or other modern technological means.’ See Birbrower, 70 Cal.Rptr.2d at 309, 949 P.2d at 6. A case such as this—involving parties domiciled in at least five different jurisdictions—only emphasizes what seems intuitively obvious: a commercial entity that serves interstate and/or international markets is likely to receive more effective and efficient representation when its general counsel, who is based close to its home office or headquarters and is familiar with the details of its operations, supervises the work of local counsel in each of the various jurisdictions in which it does business. Undoubtedly, many Hawai‘i corporations follow the same practice.
While this case is not directly applicable to Lawclerk.legal as it involves lawyers providing services in their capacity as lawyers (verses paraprofessionals), it highlights the continuing evolution of the legal market and the need for flexibility in the application of the prohibition against the unauthorized practice of law, while ensuring that the policy behind the prohibition (i.e., the protection of the public) is not jeopardized. Lawclerk.legal serves this very goal.
Formal Opinion No. 47 of the Supreme Court of Hawaii, which discusses how costs for contract lawyers must be billed, provides that because a contract lawyer is an employee of the lawyer or the firm, the engaging lawyer or law firm must charge the client the same amount that the lawyer or firm is paying the contract lawyer unless otherwise disclosed to the client and the client consents, preferably in writing.110 While providing guidance as to the billing of contract lawyers, this opinion also expresses an acceptance of the practice of engaging legal assistance on
in the practice of law, or to do so or attempt to do so or offer to do an act constituting the practice of law, except and to the extent that the person, firm, or association is licensed or authorized to do or offer to do by an appropriate court, agency, or office or by a statute of the State or of the United States.”
a temporary basis and thereby lends support for Lawclerk.legal’s model of connecting Attorneys in need of paraprofessional assistance with available paraprofessionals that have legal training.
While Idaho does not have a statute defining the unauthorized practice of law,111 Idaho courts have consistently applied the following framework when discussing the practice of law:
The practice of law as generally understood, is the doing or performing services in a court of justice, in any matter depending [sic] therein, throughout its various stages, and in conformity with the adopted rules of procedure. But in a larger sense, it includes legal advice and counsel, and the preparation of instruments
and contracts by which legal rights are secured, although such matter may or may not be depending [sic] in a court.
The Idaho courts have generally found the unauthorized practice of law where a nonlawyer seeks to represent a third-party, corporation, or trust in a judicial proceeding or before a public agency or service commission that adjudicates legal rights and duties, as well as where a nonlawyer, without supervision from a lawyer in good standing with the bar, prepares documents by which legal rights are secured, negotiates settlements and interprets settlement documents for the client, and provides legal advice to clients about their legal rights concerning personal and property damage, probate, and legal defenses.113
While the Idaho cases analyzing the unauthorized practice of law is more sparse than other states, the same overarching themes of requiring paraprofessionals to be supervised by a lawyer and prohibiting paraprofessionals from appearing in judicial proceeding and providing legal advice directly to clients appear. Consistent with the foregoing discussions, Lawclerk.legal’s requirements and restrictions ensure that the Lawclerk’s work product is solely provided to the Attorney, the Attorney is solely responsible for the work product, and precludes the Lawclerk from appearing in any judicial or administrative proceeding and from having any client contact.
Under Illinois law, there is no bright line test to distinguish what constitutes the practice of law. Where a paralegal is engaged by a lawyer, the Illinois courts have held that the paralegal does not independently practice law, but simply serves as an assistant to the lawyer.114
The Illinois Code of Paralegal Ethics outlines the scope of professional duties for paralegals as follows:
While only advisory, the foregoing categorization recognizes the broad scope of services that may be provided to a lawyer by a paraprofessional as long as the paraprofessional is properly supervised and cannot provide legal advice to the client. Notably, Lawclerk.legal’s restrictions on the services that may be provided to an Attorney by a Lawclerk are far more restrictive and protective, ensuring that only the Attorney provides legal advice and maintains the relationship with his/her client.
The Illinois courts have cautioned members of the bar against employing disbarred and suspended lawyers; however, the basis for such caution is the opportunity for the disbarred or
suspended lawyer to violate the line between the services properly performed by a law clerk or a paralegal verses a lawyer, as well as concern that allowing the public to see a disciplined lawyer providing what the public might consider to be legal services will lessen the public’s regard for the effectiveness of the discipline and promote the belief that the public is not being protected from unethical lawyer.116 While Lawclerk.legal precludes Lawclerk and client contact, thereby resolving these concerns, Lawclerk.legal nonetheless precludes suspended or disbarred lawyers from being a Lawclerk.
Subject to the provisions of Rule 5.3 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 5.3 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct provide that a lawyer may use nonlawyer assistants in accordance with certain guidelines, including the following pertinent guidelines:
Guideline 9.1. Supervision
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 the lawyer’s employer. Independent non-lawyer assistants, to-wit, those not employed by a specific firm or by specific lawyers are prohibited. 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.
Guideline 9.2. Permissible Delegation
Provided the lawyer maintains responsibility for the work product, a lawyer may delegate to a non-lawyer assistant or paralegal any task normally performed by the lawyer; however, any task prohibited by statute, court rule, administrative rule or regulation, controlling authority, or the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct may not be assigned to a non-lawyer.
Guideline 9.3. Prohibited Delegation
A lawyer may not delegate to a non-lawyer assistant:
(c) responsibility for a legal opinion rendered to a client.
Guideline 9.10. Legal Assistant Ethics
All lawyers who employ non-lawyer assistants in the State of Indiana shall assure that such non-lawyer assistants conform their conduct to be consistent with the following ethical standards:
Applying Guideline 9.1, the Supreme Court of Indiana determined that a lawyer violated Rule 5.3 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct when he employed an incarcerated legal assistant to assist in researching and preparing a post-conviction relief proceeding petition for the client.117 In reaching this conclusion, the Supreme Court of Indiana focused on the fact that due to the incarceration, it was impossible for the lawyer to supervise properly the assistant’s work, to prevent client confidences from being compromised, and to ensure that the inmate would comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct where the inmate had limited access to communication, no expectation of privacy, and limited access to research resources.118 In a second case, the Indiana Supreme Court held that a lawyer that employed a convicted murder as a paralegal on a contract basis compensated by a combination of cash and legal representation in two criminal cases and a divorce, as well as free lodging violated Rule 5.3 and Guideline 9.1.119
It should be noted, however, that Guideline 9.1 conflicts with Comment 1 to Rule 5.3 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct, which provides:
Attorneys 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. A lawyer must give such assistants appropriate instruction and supervision concerning the ethical aspects of their employment, particularly regarding the obligation not to disclose information relating to representation of the client, and should be responsible for their work product. The measures employed in supervising nonlawyers should take account of the fact that they may not have legal training and are not subject to professional discipline.
Neither of the two published cases finding a violation of Guideline 9.1 because the lawyer engaged a paraprofessional on a contract basis (verses as an employee) address this conflict. Additionally, in both of these cases, the circumstances of the engagement were sufficiently distinct to call into question whether the court would reach the same conclusion in the context of a contract paralegal that was neither incarcerated nor working in exchange for legal services.
As expressed in the comments to Rule 5.5 of the Indiana Professional Conduct, Rule 5.5 does not prohibit a lawyer from employing the services of paraprofessionals and delegating
functions to them, so long as the lawyer supervises the delegated work and retains responsibility for the work.121 Consistent therewith, when a disbarred lawyer is engaged as a paraprofessional by a lawyer in good standing with the bar and the lawyer fails to supervise the disbarred lawyer and allows the disbarred lawyer to use the lawyer’s office to meet with his clients to counsel them regarding their legal affairs, the lawyer and the disbarred lawyer have violated Rules 5.3 and 5.5, respectively, of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct.122 This case affirms, however, that where a disbarred or suspended lawyer is properly supervised, such disbarred or suspended lawyer may be engaged as a paraprofessional.
Because the Attorneys in Lawclerk.legal do not employ the Lawclerks, Lawclerk.legal violates Guideline 9.1. However, Lawclerk.legal complies with Rule 5.3, which expressly contemplates the use of independent contractor paraprofessionals by lawyers as long as their services are supervised by a barred lawyer. This conflict raises ambiguity as to whether the Indiana State Bar and courts would determine that Lawclerk.legal is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. As such, Lawclerk.legal does not permit use by Attorneys solely barred in Indiana.
The Iowa Supreme Court has held that it is not appropriate to formulate an all-inclusive definition of the practice of law, instead each case should be decided on its own facts taking into account prior cases. However, the Iowa Supreme Court has also articulated that the practice of law includes, but is not limited to:
representing another before the courts; giving of legal advice and counsel to others relating to their rights and obligations under the law; and preparation or approval of the use of legal instruments by which legal rights of others are either obtained, secured or transferred even if such matters never become the subject of a court proceeding. Functionally, the practice of law relates to the rendition of services for others that call for the professional judgment of a lawyer. The essence of the professional judgment of the lawyer is the educated ability to relate the general body and philosophy of law to a specific legal problem of a client; and thus, the public interest will be better served if only lawyers are permitted to act in matters involving professional judgment. Where this professional judgment is not involved, nonlawyers, such as court clerks, police officers, abstracters, and many governmental employees, may engage in occupations that require a special knowledge of law in certain areas. But the
services of a lawyer are essential in the public interest whenever the exercise of professional legal judgment is required.
Iowa Ethics Opinion 13-03 advises that contract lawyers may be engaged by Iowa lawyers, but only with the consent of the client.124 The opinion also provides that the same calculus used in determining an associate’s billing rate or charges should be used to determine the billing rate or charges for the contracted lawyer as it is presumed that the retaining lawyer has adopted the work as his or her own and accordingly stands by it.
Kansas courts have recognized that lawyers often delegate certain tasks to nonlawyers, which delegation “is proper if the lawyer maintains a direct relationship with his client, supervises the delegated work, and has complete professional responsibility for the work product.”125 This is consistent with Comments 2 and 3 to Model Rule 5.3, which are also Comments to Rule 5.3 of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct.
The Kansas Supreme Court has also held that while determining what constitutes the unauthorized practice of law must be determined on a case by case basis, actions of counseling and advising clients on their legal rights and rendering services requiring knowledge of legal principles are included within the definition of practicing law.126 In Flack, the lawyer was determined to have assisted a nonlawyer in the unauthorized practice of law where the nonlawyer directly met with and counseled and advised clients on their legal rights.127 In Martinez, an insurance claims consultant was determined to be engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where the claims consultant was not a lawyer yet he compiled a settlement packet of relevant information, made written demand upon insurance companies, analyzed and advised the claimant
on the merit of their claims and the reasonableness of the proposed settlement, and negotiated with insurance companies on behalf of the claimant.128
Further illustrating that by prohibiting the Lawclerks from having any client contact and appearing in court or otherwise interacting with other parties to the project, the Lawclerks are not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, the Kansas Supreme Court has explained that disbarred or suspended lawyers may be engaged as law clerks as long as they do not have client contact or appear in court.
In addition to that general definition, the Court has set forth what suspended and disbarred attorneys may and may not do:
‘The consensus is that an attorney suspended from the practice of law may obtain employment as a law clerk, providing there are certain limitations upon the suspended attorney's activities. Regarding limitations, we are persuaded the better rule is that an attorney who has been disbarred or suspended from the practice of law is permitted to work as a law clerk, investigator, paralegal, or in any capacity as a lay person for a licensed attorney-employer if the suspended lawyer's functions are limited exclusively to work of a preparatory nature under the supervision of a licensed attorney-employer and does not involve client contact. Any contact with a client is prohibited. Although not an inclusive list, the following restrictions apply: a suspended or disbarred lawyer may not be present during conferences with clients, talk to clients either directly or on the telephone, sign correspondence to them, or contact them either directly or indirectly.
‘Obviously, we do not accept that a disbarred or suspended lawyer may engage in all activities that a nonlawyer may perform. By barring contact with the licensed attorney-employer's clients, we prohibit a disbarred or suspended attorney from being present in the courtroom or present during any court proceedings involving clients.’ In re Wilkinson, 251 Kan. 546, 553-54, 834 P.2d 1356 (1992) (emphasis added).
Kentucky Supreme Court Rule 3.020 defines the practice of law as follows:
The practice of law is any service rendered involving legal knowledge or legal advice, whether of representation, counsel or advocacy in or out of court, rendered in respect to the rights, duties, obligations, liabilities, or business relations of one requiring the services. But nothing herein shall prevent any natural person not holding himself out as a practicing attorney from drawing any instrument to which he is a party without consideration unto himself therefor. An appearance in the small claims division of the district court by a person who is an officer of or who is regularly employed in a managerial capacity by a corporation or partnership which is a party to the litigation in which the appearance is made shall not be considered as unauthorized practice of law.
Kentucky courts have consistently held that paralegals, law clerks, legal assistants, and other paraprofessionals do not engage in the unauthorized practice of law as long as they are acting under the direct supervision of a lawyer that is responsible for their conduct.131
Additionally, Rule 3.700 of the Kentucky Supreme Court Rules132 is entitled “Provisions relating to paralegals” and provides:
PRELIMINARY STATEMENT: The availability of legal services to the public at a price it can afford is a goal to which the Bar is committed, and one which finds support in Canons 2 and 8 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The employment of paralegals furnishes a means by which lawyers may expand the public's opportunity for utilization of their services at a reduced cost.
For purposes of this rule, a paralegal is a person under the supervision and direction of a licensed lawyer, who may apply knowledge of law and legal procedures in rendering direct assistance to lawyers engaged in legal research; design, develop or plan modifications or new procedures, techniques, services, processes or applications; prepare or interpret legal documents and write detailed procedures for practicing in certain fields of law; select, compile and use technical information from such references as digests, encyclopedias or practice manuals; and analyze and follow procedural problems that involve independent decisions.
PURPOSE: Rapid growth in the employment of paralegals increases the desirability and necessity of establishing guidelines for the utilization of paralegals by the legal community. This rule is not intended to stifle the proper development and expansion of paralegal services, but to provide guidance and ensure growth in accordance with the Code of Professional Responsibility, statutes, court rules and decisions, rules and regulations of administrative agencies, and opinions rendered by committees on professional ethics and unauthorized practice of law.
While the responsibility for compliance with standards of professional conduct rests with members of the Bar, a paralegal should understand those standards. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the lawyer employing a paralegal to inform him of the restraints and responsibilities incident to the project and supervise the manner in which the work is completed. However, the paralegal does have an independent obligation to refrain from illegal conduct. Additionally, and notwithstanding the fact that the Code of Professional Responsibility is not binding upon lay persons, the very nature of a paralegal's employment imposes an obligation to refrain from conduct which would involve the lawyer in a violation of the Code.
A lawyer shall ensure that a paralegal in his employment does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law.
For purposes of this rule, the unauthorized practice of law shall not include any service rendered involving legal knowledge or legal advice, whether representation, counsel or advocacy, in or out of court, rendered in respect to the acts, duties, obligations, liabilities or business relations of the one requiring services where:
For purposes of this Rule 3.700, the unauthorized practice of law shall not include representation before any administrative tribunal or court where such service or representation is rendered pursuant to a court rule or decision which authorizes such practice by nonlawyers.
A lawyer shall instruct a paralegal employee to preserve the confidences and secrets of a client and shall exercise care that the paralegal does so.
A lawyer shall not form a partnership with a paralegal if any part of the partnership's activities consists of the practice of law, nor shall a lawyer share on a proportionate basis, legal fees with a paralegal.
The letterhead of a lawyer may include the name of a paralegal where the paralegal's status is clearly indicated: A lawyer may permit his name to be included in a paralegal's business card, provided that the paralegal's status is clearly indicated.
A lawyer shall require a paralegal, when dealing with a client, to disclose at the outset that he is not a lawyer. A lawyer shall also require such a disclosure when the paralegal is dealing with a court, administrative agency, attorney or the public, if there is any reason for their believing that the paralegal is a lawyer or is associated with a lawyer.
Additionally, Kentucky Bar Association Ethics Opinion E-255 provides that while a suspended or a disbarred lawyer may not be engaged as a paralegal, the suspended or disbarred lawyer may be engaged, subject to the engaging lawyer’s duty to not assist a nonlawyer in the unauthorized practice of law, as follows:
These provisions all support a determination that Lawclerk.legal does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law.
Louisiana courts have consistently held that the statutes and rules dealing with the unauthorized practice of law serve to protect the public.135 Rule 5.5(e)(3) of the Louisiana Rules
134Ethics Opinion KBA E-255, available at
https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.kybar.org/resource/resmgr/Ethics_Opinions_(Part_2)_/kba_e-255.pdf. This opinion was decided under the Code of Professional Responsibly that was in effect from 1971 to 1999 and has not been updated based on subsequent amendments.
135 Louisiana Claims Adjustment Bureau, Inc. v. State Farm Ins. Co., 877 So.d 294 (La. Ct. App. 2 Cir. 2004) (providing that the Louisiana Claims Adjustment Bureau, Inc. had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where, without a licensed attorney on staff making the determination, the bureau evaluated the clients’ claims and advised the clients of their causes of action against others).
of Professional Conduct state that for purposes of Rule 5.5, the practice of law includes the following:
Applying Louisiana Disciplinary Rule 3-101,136 a predecessor to Rule 5.3 of the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that a lawyer aided and abetted his paralegal in the unauthorized practice of law where the lawyer delegated his exercise of his professional judgment to his paralegal who performed the functions and exercised the professional judgment of a lawyer in evaluating the client’s claim, advising the client as to the merits of his case, entered into the contract to perform the legal services, prepared motions, negotiated a settlement, and handled and distributed the settlement proceeds to the client.137 In reaching this conclusion, the Louisiana Supreme Court explained that the prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law is grounded in the need to protect the public from legal services by persons unskilled in the law who may have divided loyalty or conflicts of interest.138
Importantly, the Louisiana Supreme Court also explained that “a lawyer often delegates tasks to clerks, secretaries, and other lay persons. Such delectation is proper if the lawyer
maintains a direct relationship with his client, supervises the delegated work, and has complete professional responsibility for the work product.”139
A lawyer can employ lay secretaries, lay investigators, lay detectives, lay researchers, accountants, lay scriveners, nonlawyer draftsmen or nonlawyer researchers. In fact, he may employ nonlawyers to do any task for him except counsel clients about law matters, engage directly in the practice of law, appear in court or appear in formal proceedings as part of the judicial process, so long as it is he who takes the work and vouches for it to the client and becomes responsible to the client. ABA Comm. on Professional Ethics, Op. 316 (1967). A lawyer cannot delegate his professional responsibility to a law student employed in his office. He may avail himself of the assistance of the student in many of the fields of the lawyer's work, ‘[b]ut the student is not permitted, until he is admitted to the Bar, to perform the professional functions of a lawyer, such as conducting court trials, giving professional advice to clients or drawing legal documents for them. The student in all his work must act as agent for the lawyer employing him, who must supervise his work and be responsible for his good conduct.’ ABA Comm. on Professional Ethics, Op. 85 (1932).140
The Louisiana Supreme Court then drew the critical distinction that while a lawyer may delegate various tasks to paralegals, clerks, secretaries, and other nonlawyers, he may not delegated the lawyer’s role in appearing in court or giving legal advice and must supervise closely any person to whom he delegates tasks.141 In two subsequent cases decided after Louisiana’s adoption of the Model Rules, the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmatively cited Edwins and found that the lawyer had violated Rules 5.3 and 5.5 of the Louisiana Rules of Professional conduct where: (i) nonlawyers would initiate the attorney-client relationship, advise prospective clients regarding the execution of legal documents, negotiate and settle cases without the supervision by a barred lawyer, determine probable insurance coverage, and obtain settlement authority from the client;142 and (ii) the lawyer introduced the client to a unbarred law clerk and advised that the law clerk’s services would be limited until the clerk was barred, but then failed to supervise the law clerk who provided incorrect advice to the client prior to being barred.143 Additionally, a lawyer
may not employ, contract with as a consultant, or otherwise engage any person the lawyer knows is a disbarred lawyer or, unless first preceded by the submission of a fully executed employment registration statement to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, on a registration form provided by the Louisianan Attorney Disciplinary Board, and approved by the Louisiana Supreme Court, a suspended lawyer.144
The foregoing cases establish that Lawclerk.legal does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law as the Attorneys establish and maintain the attorney-client relationship, only the Attorney provides legal advice to his/her clients, the Lawclerk solely performs the tasks delegated by the Attorney, and the Attorney supervises the Lawclerk and is solely responsible for his/her work product. Finally, disbarred or suspended attorneys may not work as Lawclerks.
Section 807 of the Maine Revised Statutes, entitled “Unauthorized practice of law” provides in pertinent part that:
No person may practice law or profess to practice law within the State or before its courts, or demand or receive any remuneration for those services rendered in this State, unless that person has been admitted to the bar of this State and has complied with section 806-A, or unless that person has been admitted to try cases in the courts of this State under section 802.
The Main courts have found the unauthorized practice of law where nonlawyers appear and/or file pleadings in judicial proceedings for third-parties, corporations, and trusts irrespective of the existence of a power of attorney.146 Conversely, Lawclerk.legal prohibits Lawclerks from signing or filing documents and from appearing in any court or administrative proceedings.
Section 10-101(h)(1) of the Maryland Code, Business Occupations & Professions, defines the practice of law as engaging in any of the following activities: (i) giving legal advice; (ii)
student in all his work must act as agent for the lawyer employing him, who must supervise his work and be responsible for his good conduct”).
representing another person before a unit of the State government or of a political subdivision; or (iii) performing any other service that the Court of Appeals defines as practicing law.147
Despite the foregoing definition, the Maryland Court of Appeals has explained that determining what constitutes the practice of law requires a factual analysis of each case to determine whether the facts fall within the intent of the definition and the purpose of the prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law, which is “to protect the public from being preyed upon by those not competent to practice law-from incompetent, unethical, or irresponsible representation.”148 This goal is “achieved, in general, by emphasizing the insulation of the unlicensed person from the public and from tribunals such as courts and certain administrative agencies.”149 Supervision and ensuring that the work product of the paraprofessionals becomes or is merged into the lawyer’s work product are the benchmarks for determining whether paraprofessionals’ services constitute the unauthorized practice of law.150
In Hallmon, the court determined that a lawyer had violated Rule 5.5(b) of the Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct where the lawyer failed to supervise a law school graduate who was not admitted to practice in any jurisdiction. While the court found that the law clerk’s preparation of pleadings, meetings with the client, and meetings with the technical staff of the zoning commission did not violate Rule 5.5(b), the lawyer’s lack of understanding of the legal strategy being employed at the zoning hearing and deferrals to the law clerk to answer the zoning
commission’s questions reflected an abdication of supervision by the lawyer in violation of Rule 5.5(b).151
Similarly, in Barton, the Maryland Court of Appeals determined that a lawyer had violated Rule 5.5(b) of the Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct where the office manager engaged by the lawyer handled client intake, quoted fees based on his evaluation of the client’s case, and led the lawyer’s clients to believe that he was a lawyer and provided legal advice to the clients, including advising what type of bankruptcy to file and to stop paying their mortgages.152
In the Application of R.G.S., the Maryland Court of Appeals held that an lawyer that had performed significant legal work in Maryland, despite not being barred in Maryland, had not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where the practitioner was barred in another state, the
work was performed in a way that insulated the practitioner from direct contact with lay clients and the courts, and the work was done under the supervision of a licensed Maryland lawyer.153
In Lawclerk.legal, contrary to Hallmon and Barton, it is the Attorney that meets with his/her clients, establishes the fees for services, provides legal advice to his/her clients, and appears in court. Further, consistent with R.G.S., in Lawclerk.legal, the Lawclerk is insulated from any contact with the Attorney’s client and the court and all services performed by the Lawclerk are performed at the direction of, and under the supervision of, the Attorney whom remains solely responsible for the Lawclerk’s work product.
While Massachusetts courts have explained that what constitutes the practice of law must be decided upon its own particular facts because it is impossible to frame any comprehensive or satisfactory definition,154 the practice of law has been held to include:
directing and managing the enforcement of legal claims and the establishment of the legal rights of others, where it is necessary to form and to act upon opinions as to what those rights are and as to the legal methods which must be adopted to enforce them, the practice of giving or furnishing legal advice as to such rights and methods and the practice, as an occupation, of drafting documents by which such rights are created, modified, surrendered or secured.
Despite the foregoing effort to provide a framework for the unauthorized practice of law analysis, the Massachusetts courts have also recognized that many of the activities described above are also undertaken by persons in other professions and occupations, and the creation of legally binding obligations and commitments is not confined to lawyers.156 “The proposition cannot be maintained, that whenever, for compensation, one person gives to another advice that involves some element of law, or performs for another some service that requires some knowledge of law, or drafts for another some document that has legal effect, he is practicing law;” rather, to be
engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, the activity must be “wholly within: the practice of law.”157
The Massachusetts courts, citing Rule 5.5(b) of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct and Comment G of the Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Attorneys,158 have held that many tasks performed by a lawyer may be performed by a paralegal, law clerk, or other paraprofessional as long as the lawyer supervises and retains responsibility for their work.159 Consistent therewith, a lawyer was found to have violated both Rules 5.3 and 5.5 of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct where the lawyer hired a law school graduate who had not passed the bar examination to work as a paralegal and develop a practice in employment discrimination cases before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and the United States Equal Employment opportunity Commission and failed to supervise the paralegal.160 More specifically, the lawyer and the paralegal agreed that the lawyer’s firm would enter into the contingent fee agreement’s with the paralegal’s clients and all fees and retainers would be paid to the firm, but that the paralegal would then receive two-thirds of any fees collected. The engaging lawyer did not handle employment or other discrimination cases and it was understood that the paralegal would operate a virtually independent discrimination law practice without substantial supervision by the lawyer or any other lawyer at the firm and, in fact, no supervision was provided.161 The paralegal solicited clients, determined fee arrangements, executed fee agreements, collected fees, filed complaints, drafted pleadings, conducted discovery, counselled clients as to their legal rights, settled cases, and performed all other legal work on the cases.162
Additionally, Ethics Opinion No. 75-8 advises that a lawyer who is engaged in general practice of law may offer a legal research service to other lawyers, and may publicize the availability and advantages of such service by means of letters and advertisements directed to other lawyers, but only upon the following conditions: (i) the research service may be provided only to other lawyers; (ii) the publicity for the legal research service may not identify the lawyer by name nor state that the work will be performed or supervised by a lawyer; (iii) the lawyer may not accept any general work that comes to him through the legal research service; and (iv) in the course of his general practice, the lawyer may not indicate on his letterhead, office sign, or professional card
Nonlawyer employees of law firms. For obvious reasons of convenience and better service to clients, lawyers and law firms are empowered to retain nonlawyer personnel to assist firm lawyers in providing legal services to clients. In the course of that work, a nonlawyer may conduct activities that, if conducted by that person alone in representing a client, would constitute unauthorized practice. Those activities are permissible and do not constitute unauthorized practice, so long as the responsible lawyer or law firm provides appropriate supervision (see § 11, Comment e), and so long as the nonlawyer is not permitted to own an interest in the law firm, split fees, or exercise management powers with respect to a law-practice aspect of the firm (see § 10).
Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers § 4 (2000).
that he operates the legal research service.163 In reaching this conclusion, the Massachusetts Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics emphasized that as a “lawyer may use the services of a non-lawyer to perform legal research or draft legal documents if the lawyer maintains a direct relationship with his client, supervises the delegated work, and has complete professional responsibility for the work product,” it would follow that a lawyer may properly use the services of another lawyer to perform legal research.164 The Committee also noted that in recent years, a number of legal research service organizations have begun offering research services to lawyers, and discussed one such company – The Research Group Incorporated, which advertises that “our staff includes 50 full-time law graduates who are seasoned professionals at preparing strategy, comprehensive legal memoranda, trial and appellate briefs and pleadings.”165 In reaching its opinion, the Committee accepted the proposition that the operation of a legal research service is not the practice of law and noted that it had been informed that the Committee on Unauthorized Practice of Law of the Massachusetts Bar Association has rendered an informal opinion to the effect that The Research Group Incorporated is not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in providing research services to lawyers, and we understand that similar committees of other state bar associations have reached the same conclusion. While not addressing Lawclerk.legal, the analysis applies with equal force demonstrating that Lawclerk.legal does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law.
The Michigan’s prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law is intended to protect and secure the public’s interest in competent legal representation and Section 600.916 is construed with this purpose in mind.166 Applying Rules 5.3 and 5.5 of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan explained that if a nonlawyer is working under the direction and control of a licensed lawyer, then the lawyer is ultimately responsible for the debtor’s representation and is responsible for ensuring that the nonlawyer’s conduct is compatible with the lawyer’s ethical obligations.167 Further elaborating on what constitutes inadequate supervision under Rule 5.3, the court explained that the lawyer is not adequately supervising the nonlawyer if the lawyer does not know about the existence or content of the meetings between the nonlawyer and the client, if the lawyer relies solely on the nonlawyer as the client intermediary and fails to meet directly with the client, or if the lawyer fails
to use his independent professional judgment to determine which documents prepared by the nonlawyer should be communicated outside the law office.168
Applying Rules 5.3 and 5.5 of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct, the Michigan courts have found the unauthorized practice of law involving paraprofessionals where: (i) bankruptcy counsel’s legal assistants defined concepts and legal terms of art, explained to prospective clients the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, rendered advice peculiar to potential debtor’s situation, signed the engagement letters, and used their judgment to determine which client questions to answer themselves and which to refer to the lawyer;169 and (ii) a nonlawyer went beyond advertising for sale and distributing do-it-yourself divorce kits containing forms and documents necessary to effect no-fault divorce and advertised professional guidance to clients, arranged personal conferences with clients to discuss divorce, prepared documents incident to divorce proceeding, occasionally filed completed forms in court and personally advised clients as to proper testimony was engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.170
Further, in RI-25,171 the State Bar of Michigan advised that, while the lawyer must supervise the legal assistant in the performance of her services and is ultimately responsible for such services, as long as the necessary disclosures are made to the client, the legal assistant may be assigned to perform the services required to represent the lawyer’s client in the administrative proceeding.172
The State Bar of Michigan Board of Commissioner approved the following guidelines for the use of legal assistants on April 23, 1993.173 While the guidelines refer to legal assistants,174 they also state that many of the guidelines apply to the utilization of any other nonlawyer assistants.
Guideline 1: A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the conduct of a legal assistant under the lawyer’s direct supervision is compatible with the lawyer’s professional obligations under the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct. Such efforts should include training in the requirements of those Rules that most directly relate to communications with persons other than the lawyer's clients.175
Guideline 2: A lawyer may ethically assign responsibility to a legal assistant for the performance of tasks relating to the representation of a client and the law firm’s delivery of legal services, commensurate with the experience and training of the legal assistant, and where the lawyer directly supervises the legal assistant and reviews the legal assistant’s work product before it is communicated outside the law firm, provided that:
Guideline 3: A lawyer may not delegate to a legal assistant:
Responsibility for establishing a lawyer-client relationship.
Responsibility for establishing the fee arrangement with a client.177
Guideline 4: A lawyer may identify legal assistants by name and title on the lawyer’s letterhead and on business cards identifying the lawyer's firm.178
Guideline 5: In employing a legal assistant, or assigning a legal assistant to any particular client matter, a lawyer should take reasonable measures to ensure that no conflict of interest is presented arising out of the legal assistant’s current or prior employment or from the legal assistant's other business or personal interests.179
Guideline 6: In establishing a fee arrangement with a client, a lawyer may include a reasonable charge for work performed by a legal assistant, provided that the client consents after consultation.180
Guideline 7: A lawyer may not split legal fees with a legal assistant nor pay a legal assistant for the referral of legal business. A lawyer may compensate a legal assistant based on the quantity and quality of the legal assistant’s work and the value of that work to the law practice. A lawyer may include nonlawyer employees in a compensation or retirement plan, even though the plan is based in whole or in part on a profit-sharing arrangement.181
Guideline 8: A lawyer who employs a legal assistant should facilitate the legal assistant’s participation in appropriate continuing education and public service activities.
As the foregoing cases, ethical opinions, and guidelines for the utilization of legal assistants establish, Lawclerk.legal imposes greater restrictions than the Michigan State Bar and by such rules does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has recognized that the “line drawn between the work of a law clerk and an attorney is a fine one.”182 As long as the nonlawyer’s work is of a preparatory nature, such as legal research, drafting legal pleadings for lawyer review, and investigation, such that the work merges with the work of the supervising lawyer, it is not the practice of law.183 Conversely, where the nonlawyer “acts in a representative capacity in protecting, enforcing, or defending the legal rights of another, and advises and counsels that person in connection with those rights, the non-lawyer steps over that line.”184 Consistent with the foregoing types of services that may be provide by paraprofessionals, Lawclerks have no direct contact with the Attorney’s client and the Lawclerk’s services are only provided to the supervising Attorney who is solely responsible for the Lawclerk’s work product.
Citing Rules 5.3 and 5.5 of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, the Minnesotan Attorneys Professional Responsibility issued Opinion No. 8, which confirms that “[n]on-lawyers must be supervised by a lawyer who is responsible for their work.”185 Again, Lawclerk.legal satisfies this requirement as the Lawclerk only performs the services delegated to him/her by the Attorney, the Lawclerk is required to review and confirm that s/he will comply with the applicable state’s rules of professional conduct before commencing each assignment, precludes contact with anyone other than the Attorney, the Lawclerk may not appear or file any documents with any judicial or administrative body, and the Attorney remains entirely responsible for the Lawclerk’s work product.
Applying Rules 5.3 and 5.5 of the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Mississippi determined that outsourced paraprofessionals had not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when they drafted a motion and order, communicated with the lawyer’s client to determine information pertinent to the motion, and assisted in filing the motion because the motion, order, and entire proceeding had been reviewed, signed, and supervised by the lawyer that had engaged the contract paraprofessionals.186 The court emphasized that the use of contract (verses employed) paraprofessionals is of no
182 See Matter of Discipline of Jorissen, 391 N.W.2d 822, 825 (Minn. 1986) (disbarring a lawyer who, while suspended, continued to represent clients in court, act on behalf of clients, and failed to correct opposing counsel and courts who held the mistake behalf that he was admitted to practice law); see also In re Disciplinary Action Against Ray, 452 N.W.2d 689, 693 (Minn. 1990) (citing Jorissen and explaining that the respondent may not have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where there was no evidence submitted that the draft will had not been submitted to the supervising attorney for review and signature)
substantive impact; the “use of paralegal employees, whether outsourced or ‘in house,” reduces the time that must be devoted by a licensed attorney, and, in turn, reduces the costs to all parties.”187 Consistent with the foregoing decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court has emphasized that for it, like other jurisdictions, where a lawyer fails to supervise the nonlawyer, the lawyer violates Rule 5.3 by assisting in the unauthorized practice of law.188
Mississippi, like many of its other states, has held that a suspended or disbarred lawyer may serve as a law clerk as long as the suspended or disbarred lawyer: (i) does not have any client contact; (ii) is engaged under the supervision of a lawyer in good standing; and (iii) is totally separate from his prior law practice.189
These decisions demonstrate that Lawclerk.legal does not violate the prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law as the Attorney delegates and supervises the work of the Lawclerk, the Attorney is solely responsible for the Lawclerk’s work product, the Lawclerk does not have any client or court contact, and only the Attorney provides legal advice to his/her client.
Section 848.010(1) of the Missouri Annotated Statutes defined the practice of law as follows:
[T]he appearance as an advocate in a representative capacity or the drawing of papers, pleadings or documents or the performance of any act in such capacity in connection with proceedings pending or prospective before any court of record, commissioner, referee or any body, board, committee or commission constituted by law or having authority to settle controversies.190
The foregoing statute should be construed to effect the legislative intent “to protect the public from the rendition of services deemed to require special fitness and training by those not possessing the required legal qualifications.”191
Applying 848.010, the Missouri Supreme Court held that a company that marketed and drafted living trusts and related legal documents prepared by nonlawyers engaged in the
189See In re Parsons, 890 So.2d 40, 45 (Miss. 2003) (citing Wilkinson, 834 P.2d 1356, 1362 (Kan. 1992), In re Mitchell, 901 F.2d 1170 (3rd Cir. 1990) (allowing attorney suspended from court of appeals to be employed as a law clerk), In re Mekler, 672 A.2d 23 (Del. 1995), and State ex. rel. Oregon State Bar v. Lenske, 584 P.2d 759 (Or. 1978)).
unauthorized practice of law, where the nonlawyers gave legal advice to individuals concerning their need for living trusts, gathered information from the clients that the nonlawyer used to determine and advise as to the appropriate type of trust for the client, prepared trust documents, and collected the fees for the services.192 The fact that the company engaged an in-house lawyer and would refer customers to certain selected lawyers for document review, such supervision was insufficient where: (i) the nonlawyer had already provided legal advice to the client regarding the client’s legal affairs, recommended and sold the trust instrument, and received payment for the trust, and drafted the client-specific trust before the participation of the reviewing lawyer; (ii) the company discouraged individualized contact between the client and the recommended lawyers; and (iii) the company policies included directives to dissuade clients from engaging their own lawyers to review the documents.193
The Missouri courts have repeatedly held that while non-lawyers may fill in blanks in approved real estate documents and sell generalized legal publications and kits, nonlawyers may not, without the direct supervision of an independent licensed lawyer, select a specific legal document for a client, draft a legal document, or provide any personal advice as to the legal remedies or consequences flowing from such documents.194 Conversely, in Lawclerk.legal, it is the Attorney, and only the Attorney, that has client contact, makes legal strategy decisions, and provides legal advice to the Attorney’s clients.
Section 37-61-201 of the Montana Code defines when someone is considered to be practicing law as follows:
Any person who holds out to the public or advertises as an attorney or who appears in any court of record or before a judicial body, referee, commissioner, or other officer appointed to determine any question of law or fact by a court or who engages in the business and duties and performs acts, matters, and things that are usually done or performed by an attorney at law in the practice of that profession for the purposes of parts 1 through 3 of this chapter is considered to be practicing law.
Section 37-60-101 defines “paralegal” or “legal assistant” as follows:
a person qualified through education, training, or work experience to perform substantive legal work that requires knowledge of legal concepts and that is customarily but not exclusively performed by a lawyer and who may be retained
or employed by one or more lawyers, law offices, governmental agencies, or other entities or who may be authorized by administrative, statutory, or court authority to perform this work.
Discussing each of these statutes, the Montana Supreme Court found that a nonlawyer had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where: (i) a nonlawyer advertised as an “independent paralegal” under the “attorney” heading in the yellow pages stating that he is “Licensed to Practice Law in Blackfeet Tribal Court” and that he is a “MEMBER: Child & Family Section of the Montana State Bar;” (ii) the nonlawyer was receiving private personal and legal matters from his clients despite the fact that there could not have an attorney-client relationship as the nonlawyer was not acting under the supervision of a lawyer that established the attorney-client relationship; and (iii) the nonlawyer prepared legal documents and provided legal advice to the clients without the requisite supervision. Conversely, in Lawclerk.legal, the Lawclerks solely perform the services delegated to them by the Attorney, the Attorney maintains the attorney-client relationship, only the Attorney provides legal advice to his/her client, and the Attorney is solely responsible for the Lawclerk’s work product.197
Article 10 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Nebraska is entitled the “Unauthorized Practice of Law” and contains a fulsome set of rules clarifying what constitutes the unauthorized practice of law, the purpose of which “is to protect the public from potential harm caused by the actions of nonlawyers engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.”198 These rules defined the practice of law as:
[T]he application of legal principles and judgment with regard to the circumstances or objectives of another entity or person which require the knowledge, judgment, and skill of a person trained as a lawyer. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
process, or in an administrative adjudicative proceeding in which legal pleadings are filed or a record is established as the basis for judicial review.
Under these rules, a “nonlawyer” is a “person not duly licensed or otherwise authorized to practice law in the State of Nebraska. The term also includes any entity or organization not authorized to practice law by specific rule of the Supreme Court whether or not it employs persons who are licensed to practice law.”200 Section 3-1005 expressly states that “[n]othing in these rules shall affect the ability of nonlawyer assistants to act under the supervision of a lawyer in compliance with Neb. Ct. R. of Prof. Cond. § 3-505.3,” which mirrors Model Rule 5.3 prior to the most recent nonsubstantive amendments.201
In Thierstein, the Nebraska Supreme Court found that a suspended lawyer was not acting in the role of a paralegal where the alleged supervising lawyer had never seen the documents drafted by the suspended lawyer, the alleged supervising lawyer had not directed the suspended lawyer to draft them, and only the suspended lawyer had met the client.202 In explaining the difference between the permissible work of a nonlawyer and the unauthorized practice of law by a nonlawyer, the court emphasized that a nonlawyer’s work “must lose its identity as work of the paralegal and become the work product of the attorney.”203 Consistent with this distinction, the Attorney maintains the client contact, the Attorney assigns the project to the Lawclerk, and the Attorney retains sole responsibility for the Lawclerk’s work product such that becomes the work product of the Attorney.
It is noteworthy that in suspending a lawyer, the Nebraska Supreme Court expressly permitted the suspended lawyer to function in a nonlawyer capacity as a paralegal or law clerk.204 Additionally, Nebraska Ethics Advisory Opinion for Attorneys No. 11-01 applies the foregoing statutes and states that a suspended lawyer may be “employed or serve as a nonlawyer assistant or paralegal” under the supervision of a lawyer pursuant to Neb. Ct. R. Prof. Cond. § 3-505.3 and subject to the following limitations: (i) all work must be of a preparatory nature only and reviewed by the supervising lawyer; (ii) any client who has contact with the suspended lawyer must be informed that the suspended lawyer is not authorized to practice law; (iii) any contact with clients
must occur on the business premises of the supervising lawyer under his/her supervision; and (iv) the suspended lawyer should not otherwise engage in activities that give the appearance of practicing law.205
What constitutes the practice of law in Nevada is determined on a case-by-case basis “bearing in mind the overarching principle that the practice of law is involved when the activity requires the exercise of judgment in applying general legal knowledge to a client’s specific problem.”206 In determining what constitutes the practice of law, the public interest is further of primary concern—both protection from incompetent legal services and also ensuring that regulation of the practice of law is not so strict that the public good suffers.207
Nevada courts have held that an individual engages in the unauthorized practice of law when he performs activities customarily executed by licensed lawyers, such as engaging in discovery proceedings, evaluating legal claims, filing documents, and appearing in court on behalf of someone else.208 In a thorough opinion, the Supreme Court of Nevada determined that a lawyer that was not barred by the State of Nevada engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where the unbarred lawyer provided the following services: (i) conducted initial client consultations; (ii) evaluated the clients’ claims’ merits; (iii) served as the clients’ sole contact with the firm; and (iv) negotiated the claims with the defendants’ insurance carriers.209 In reaching its determination, the Nevada Supreme Court cited cases from Florida, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Kansas providing that the barred and licensed lawyer must maintain the direct relationship with the client.210
Lawclerk.legal prohibits the Lawclerk from having any contact with the Attorney’s client and engaging in any negotiations or other contact with any parties to the anticipated or pending litigation or administrative proceeding. Additionally, the Attorney is solely responsible for the attorney-client relationship, including providing legal advice, and is further solely responsible for the Lawclerk’s work product.
205 See Nevada Ethics Advisory Opinion for Lawyers No. 11-01 issued by the Nebraska Lawyers’ Advisory Committee, available at https://supremecourt.nebraska.gov/lawyers-ethics-opinions.
When applying NRS 7.285(1)211 and Rule 5.5 of the Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct, the Nevada courts have consistently held that a person violates NRS 7.285(1) where a nonlawyer provides legal advice directly to another person, represents a litigant at a deposition or in a court or administrative proceeding, and drafts pleadings on behalf of a litigant. For example, Nevada courts have held that the following conduct violates NRS 7.285(1): (i) a nonlawyer inmate law library assistant appearing at a deposition to represent the pro se inmate defendant;212 (ii) a nonlawyer filing a complaint and appearing for a plaintiff as an attorney-in-fact pursuant to a power of attorney;213 (iii) a nonlawyer filing and prosecuting an appeal on behalf of a trust;214 (iv) a nonattorney president of the plaintiff corporation substituting in as counsel for the plaintiff corporation in the pending litigation;215 (v) a nonlawyer representing an unemployment compensation claimant in his appeal from the Employment Security Departments’ denial of requested unemployment benefits;216 and (vi) a nonlawyer bankruptcy petition preparer preparing and filing a motion and order seeking the release of the debtor’s funds on behalf of a debtor that had appeared in her Chapter 7 case pro se.217 None of the Nevada cases citing NRS 7.285(1) have found that a person violated NRS 7.285(1) where the person was engaged to provide legal services
to an admitted lawyer in good standing with the Nevada State Bar where the person had no contact with the lawyer’s clients.
Lawclerk.legal does not run afoul of Nevada’s prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law because the Lawclerk does not have any client contact, the Lawclerk cannot sign or file any documents, the Lawclerk cannot appear in any court or other judicial or administrative proceeding, only the Attorney provides legal advice to his/her clients, and the Lawclerk only provides the services delegated to him/her by the Attorney and under the Attorney’s supervision.
Rule 35 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of the State of New Hampshire is titled “Guidelines for the Utilization by Attorneys of the Services of Legal Assistants Under the New Hampshire Rules of Professional Conduct” and provide the following rules:
Rule 1 It is the responsibility of the lawyer to take all steps reasonably necessary to ensure that a legal assistant for whose work the lawyer is responsible does not provide legal advice or otherwise engage in the unauthorized practice of law; provided, however, that with adequate lawyer supervision the legal assistant may provide information concerning legal matters and otherwise act as permitted under these rules.
Rule 2 A lawyer may not permit a legal assistant to represent a client in judicial or administrative proceedings or to perform other functions ordinarily limited to lawyers, unless authorized by statute, court rule or decision, administrative rule or regulation or customary practice
Rule 3 Except as otherwise provided by statute, court rule, or decision, administrative rule or regulation, or by the Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer may permit a legal assistant to perform services for the lawyer in the lawyer’s representation of a client, provided:
Rule 4 A lawyer should exercise care that a legal assistant for whose work the lawyer is responsible does not:
Rule 5 A lawyer shall not form a partnership with a legal assistant if any of the activities of the partnership consist of the practice of law, nor practice with or in the form of a professional corporation or association authorized to practice law for a profit if a legal assistant owns an interest therein, is a corporate director or officer thereof or has the right to direct or control the professional judgment of a lawyer.
Rule 6 A lawyer shall not share fees with a legal assistant in any manner, except that a lawyer or law firm may include the legal assistant in a retirement plan even if the plan is based in whole or in part on a profit-sharing arrangement.
Rule 7 A legal assistant's name may not be included on the letterhead of a lawyer or law firm. A legal assistant's business card may indicate the name of the lawyer or the law firm employing the assistant, provided that the assistant's capacity is clearly indicated and that the services of the assistant are not utilized by the lawyer or firm for the purpose of solicitation of professional employment for the lawyer or firm from a prospective client in violation of the relevant statutes or the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Rule 8 A lawyer shall require that a legal assistant, when dealing with clients, attorneys or the public, disclose at the outset that he or she is not a lawyer.
Rule 9 A lawyer should exercise care to prevent a legal assistant from engaging in conduct which would involve the assistant's employer in a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Consistent with these rules, the Attorney supervises the Lawclerk and maintains full responsibility for the Lawclerk’s work, the Attorney has sole responsibility for the attorney-client relationship, the Lawclerk has no client contact, the Lawclerk shall not appear before a court or tribunal, the Lawclerks do not share fees with the Attorneys, conflicts checks are undertaken in advance of any engagement, and the Lawclerk must affirm that s/he has reviewed the applicable rules of professional conduct and will comply with such rules (including maintaining client confidences).
In Advisory Opinion 2011-12/5, the New Hampshire Bar Association Ethics Committee addressed the outsourcing of legal and non-legal support services generally, as well as the more specific question of whether a New Hampshire lawyer may outsource litigation support services, such as document scanning and document review for relevance, confidentiality, and privilege, to a company located overseas on a temporary or ongoing basis.220 The Committee provided the following short answer:
Such engagement of support services does not of itself violate the Rules of Professional Conduct. The New Hampshire attorney must ensure that the individuals or companies providing the services maintain client confidences (Rule 1.6) and do not create conflicts of interest (Rule 1.7). The New Hampshire attorney must also ensure that the charges for these services do not result in an unreasonable fee or unreasonable expenses (Rule 1.5), and must not share fees with non-attorneys (Rule 5.4). The New Hampshire attorney must notify the client of the engagement of such services (Rules 1.2 and 2.1), must be competent (Rule 1.1) to review the services provided (Rules 5.1 and 5.3), and must avoid the assistance of the unauthorized practice of law (Rule 5.5).
Before delving into the specific question presented, the Committee noted that lawyers regularly engage companies to provide support services, such as outsourcing their libraries, litigation and trial support services, and accounting and financial services. The Committee also cited to ABA Op, 08-451 (2008), wherein the ABA called such outsourcing “a salutary one for our globalized economy” and one that may reduce costs to clients.222
Addressing the issue of scanning, the Committee referred to its prior opinions where it determined that outsourcing of non-legal support services, including word processing services, credit card services, microfilming services, and off-site storage retrieval service, does not create an ethical problem as long as the lawyer takes all reasonable measures to ensure that the companies involved maintain client confidentiality. Related to the scanning and document review, the Committee further explained that the lawyer should take protective measures to either protect the
220 See Ethics Committee Advisory Opinion No. 2011-12/5, by the New Hampshire Bar Associations Ethics Committee, December 14, 2011, available at https://www.nhbar.org/legal-links/Ethics-Opinion-2011-12_05.asp.
files themselves (by encryption) or to protect the method of transmission (by using a secured protocol) when transmitting large amounts of data over the internet.
Turning to the issue of outsourcing document review by nonlawyers, the Committee explained that such outsourcing is permitted; however, the lawyer must be mindful of the following ethical considerations:
Disclosure of the arrangement to the client under Rule 1.2 (Scope of representation) and Rule 7.1 (Communications concerning a lawyer’s services). Even sophisticated clients may not anticipate that a lawyer will outsource document review. Accordingly, the lawyer should discuss the arrangement, all risks and benefits, and any possible alternatives with the client before outsourcing document review.
Maintenance of client confidences under Rule 1.6. The New Hampshire attorney should insist upon a provision in any outsourcing agreement that requires confidentiality, and should consider requiring the company to make the confidentiality requirement part of its employee manual.
Avoidance of conflicts of interests under Rule 1.7. The New Hampshire attorney should routinely require the service company to perform a conflicts check if it has more than one client.
Avoidance of sharing of fees with non-lawyers under Rule 5.4. A fixed fee agreement should help avoid the sharing of fees.
Avoidance of assisting in the unauthorized practice of law under Rule 5.5. The outsourcing of a limited function, such as document review, will probably not create an issue, but the New Hampshire attorney should nevertheless be mindful of not stepping over the line if outsourcing additional legal support services.
Responsibilities under Rule 5.1 (for lawyers) and Rule 5.3 (for non-lawyer assistants). The Supreme Court will not likely sanction an overseas company or its employees for any violations of the Rules of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, the Court will likely place the responsibility on the New Hampshire attorney to oversee the work performed overseas, and ensure that it is performed competently and in an ethical manner. At a minimum, this will require that the attorney maintain independence of judgment under Rule 2.1, and be competent, under Rule 1.1, to review the work.
Consistent with the guidance provided in Opinion No. 2011-1215, Lawclerk.legal advises the Attorneys to disclose their use of the Lawclerks to their clients, the Lawclerks must affirm that
they will review and comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct, including maintaining client confidences, conflicts checks are performed before a Lawclerk is engaged, the Lawclerk is paid by a fixed fee, the Lawclerk only performs the services delegated by the Attorney and the Attorney retains responsibility for the services rendered by the Lawclerk, and only the Attorney provides legal advice to the client.
In Advisory Opinion 1995-96/3, the Committee was asked to opine regarding the propriety of an employment agency that employs licensed attorneys, law graduates, and law students to provide temporary legal and quasi-legal services to law firms and other businesses, as well as to act as a placement agency.224 Responding that law firms may hire/lease lawyers through such an agency so long as the temporary lawyers, employment agency, and law firm: (i) comply with the rules regarding the unauthorized practice of law and interference with professional judgment; (ii) take appropriate steps to disclose the existence of a lawyer leasing arrangement to the client to the extent appropriate and necessary; and (iii) comply with the rules prohibiting conflicts of interest and breach of client confidences.225 The Committee expounded that the agency must never learn confidential information of a firm client and must implement procedures to avoid breaches of confidence by the temporary lawyer, including among the employees of the agency. Additionally, the temporary lawyer, law firms, and employment agency must take measures to avoid conflicts of interest problems. Beyond these categorical issues, the Committee advised that:
The employment agency should:
The temporary lawyers should:
224 See Ethics Committee Advisory Opinion No. 1995-96/3 by the New Hampshire Bar Associations Ethics Committee, November 8, 1995, available at https://www.nhbar.org/pdfs/FO95-96-3.pdf.
The law firm customer of the agency should:
As discussed above, Lawclerk.legal complies with the guidelines enunciated in Opinion
In 1990, the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law concluded in Advisory Opinion No. 24 that paralegals and legal assistants that are retained on a limited basis unlike paralegals and legal assistants that are employed full-time by a lawyer, are engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.”227 This determination was challenged by several independent paralegals whom lawyer do not employ, but retain on a temporary basis. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed, finding that there was no rational basis to treat employed paralegals disparately from independent paralegals.228
In addressing the issue, the New Jersey Supreme Court explained that “[u]nder both federal law and New Jersey law, and under both the ABA and the New Jersey ethics Rules, lawyers may
delegate legal tasks to paralegals if they maintain direct relationships with their clients, supervise the paralegal’s work and remain responsible for the work product.”229
Refuting the concern that independent paralegals have a “physical distance” from the lawyer that may impede the lawyer’s ability to supervise the paralegal, the New Jersey Supreme Court responded as follows:
We recognize that distance between the independent paralegal and the attorney may create less opportunity for efficient, significant, rigorous supervision. Nonetheless, the site at which the paralegal performs services should not be the determinative factor. In large law firms that have satellite offices, an employed paralegal frequently has less face-to-face contact with the supervising attorney than would a retained paralegal.
Moreover, in this age of rapidly-expanding instant communications (including fax tele-transmissions, word processing, computer networks, cellular telephone service and other computer-modem communications), out-of-office paralegals can communicate frequently with their supervising attorneys. Indeed, as technology progresses, there will be more communication between employers and employees located at different sites, even different states. That arrangement will be helpful to both the paralegal and the attorney. Parents and disabled people, particularly, may prefer to work from their homes. Sole practitioners and small law firms will be able to obtain the services of paralegals otherwise available only to large firms.
Moreover, nothing in the record before the Committee suggested that attorneys have found it difficult to supervise independent paralegals. Indeed, the paralegals testified that the use of word processing made an attorney's quick review of their work possible. Most of the independent contractors who testified worked under the supervision of attorneys with whom they had regular communication.
Consistent with the paralegal analysis, when analyzing the unauthorized practice of law, the New Jersey Supreme Court has drawn a distinction between lawyers providing law clerk services supervised by a barred lawyer and lawyers employed as associates of a firm that are not barred by New Jersey. In Jackman, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that a lawyer had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where the lawyer seeking admission had provided all of the services of a senior associate at a New Jersey law firm for eight years despite only being barred in Maryland on inactive status, including interviewing and counseling clients, preparing
and signing documents on behalf of clients, and negotiating on mergers and acquisition matters.231 The court juxtaposed the full lawyer services that the associate had provided with those of a law clerk who prepares legal research and documents for review and action by another responsible lawyer licensed in New Jersey.232
While Rule 16-505 of the New Mexico State Court Rules provide that only lawyers that have passed the bar may practice law, this rule “does not limit a lawyer’s ability to hire paralegals, as long as a lawyer supervises the delegated tasks and assumes responsibilities for their actions.” In re Montoya, 266 P.3d 11, 19 (N.M. 2011). As the Supreme Court of New Mexico previously recognized, “[t]he utilization of legal assistants is firmly established in our legal system. It is a practice that can provide cost savings to clients by allowing certain tasks to be performed by non-lawyers that otherwise would be performed by the lawyer.”233 However, the lawyer must not abdicate all responsibilities to legal assistants and must maintain the primary responsibility for interacting with clients.234
In Ethics Opinion No. 1079, the New York State Bar Association affirmatively cited the ABA Guidelines’ definition of “legal assistant” as follows: “[a] legal assistant or paralegal is a person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.”235 The Opinion then went on to explain that:
The only requirement in the Rules pertaining to the work of paralegals is that an employing law firm must ensure that the work of nonlawyers who work for the firm is ‘adequately supervised, as appropriate.’ Rule 5.3(a). The degree of supervision required is that which is ‘reasonable under the circumstances, taking into account such factors as the experience of the person whose work is being supervised, the amount of work involved and the likelihood that ethical problems might arise in the course of working on the matter.’ Id. See also N.Y. State 393 (1975) (degree of responsibility that may be entrusted to individual legal assistants may vary according to their education and experience).
In Parker, the New York Supreme Court recognized that the “appropriate use of legal assistants facilitates the delivery of legal services at a reasonable cost in fulfillment of the obligations of lawyers to make legal counsel available to the public.”236 However, where the barred lawyer had allowed a resigned lawyer working in the capacity of a legal assistant to draft and finalize a contract for sale and an affidavit and to appear on behalf of the client and negotiate and execute the forbearance agreement, the barred lawyer had aided the nonlawyer in the unauthorized practice of law.237 Consistent therewith, a lawyer was held to have assisted a nonlawyer in the unauthorized practice of law where the lawyer hired a disbarred lawyer to serve as a legal assistant, but, the lawyer: (i) relied upon the disbarred lawyer’s legal knowledge and expertise in giving the disbarred great autonomy in the performance of his work on clients’ legal matters; (ii) delegated to the disbarred lawyer the responsibility of being the principal contact with his clients with little or no supervision; and (iii) endorsed the disbarred lawyer’s use of a false identity when communicating with clients, presumably to deceive them as to his status as a disbarred lawyer.238 Similarly, a lawyer was determined to have assisted a nonlawyer paralegal in the unauthorized practice of law where the lawyer he relied on the paralegal to prepare pleadings
and filed them with the court without reviewing them or otherwise supervising the paralegal’s work.239
“It was not the purpose and intent of the [unauthorize practice of law] statute to make unlawful all activities of lay persons which come within the general definition of practicing law ...
its purpose is for the better security of the people against incompetency and dishonesty in an area of activity affecting general welfare.”240 Consistent therewith, nonlawyers have been held to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where they, without lawyer supervision, move beyond the permissible scope of scrivener to providing legal advice. By way of example, a bankruptcy petition preparer was held to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when, in preparing the debtor’s petition and schedules, the petition preparer, without lawyer supervision, provided
legal advice and case citations to relevant case law concerning exemptions that the debtor may claim on his schedules.241 Similarly, a commercial lien-filing service that did not employ a lawyer was held to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in preparing claims of lien, which was a “legal document” because it was prepared to enforce a claimant’s statutory lien rights, and the service’s efforts in preparing that document on their clients’ behalf exceeded the limited protection given scriveners.242 Conversely, in Lawclerk.legal, legal advice is solely provided to the Attorney’s client by the Attorney. The Lawclerk has no client contact and cannot provide advice to the Attorney’s client.
The Formal Ethics Opinions of the Council of the North Carolina State Bar further establish that while a nonlawyer may not give legal advice to a lawyer’s client, a nonlawyer (such as a paralegal, law clerk, or legal assistant) may provide assistance to the lawyer in his/her provision of legal services to his/her client as long as the lawyer maintains the attorney-client relationship and supervises the nonlawyer. For instance, 1998 Formal Ethics Opinion 7 provides that a law firm may employ a disbarred lawyer as a paralegal, law clerk, or some other capacity other than as a lawyer provided it is not the same firm at which the misconduct occurred and the new law firm does not accept any new clients that were clients of the disbarred lawyer’s prior firm during the period of his/her misconduct.243
In 2002 Formal Ethics Opinion 9, the North Carolina State Bar was asked to address the following inquiry:
In connection with a residential real estate transaction, a lawyer is retained to ensure that the documents are properly executed and that the loan and sale proceeds are properly distributed, in addition to other services, if any, that the lawyer is retained to provide. May the lawyer assign to a nonlawyer assistant the tasks of presiding over the execution of the documents and the disbursement of the closing proceeds necessary to complete the transaction?
The North Carolina responded that “Yes. The lawyer may delegate the direction of the execution of the documents and disbursement of the closing proceeds to a nonlawyer who is supervised by the lawyer provided, however, the nonlawyer does not give legal advice to the parties.”245 In reaching this conclusion, the North Carolina State Bar noted that it is common for lawyers, exercising their sound legal discretion, to delegate to their nonlawyer assistants other tasks in connection with residential real estate transactions, including researching public records
and recording documents.246 The North Carolina State Bar further explained that “[a]s is the case with any task that a lawyer delegates to a nonlawyer, competent practice requires that the lawyer determine that delegation is appropriate after having evaluated the complexity of the transaction, the degree of difficulty of the particular task, the training and ability of the nonlawyer, the client’s sophistication and expectations, and the course of dealings with the client.”247
Consistent with these Formal Ethics Opinions, Lawclerk.legal allows an Attorney, in his/her professional judgment and having determined the complexity of the transaction and the training and ability of the Lawclerk, to determine what tasks to assign to the Lawclerk. However, adding further protection, the Lawclerk has no contact with the Attorney’s client and it is only the Attorney that provides legal advice to his/her clients.
North Dakota’s prohibition of the unauthorized practice of law “is aimed at preventing the harm caused by unqualified persons performing legal services for others.”248 Consistent therewith, Rule 5.3(d) of the North Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct provides:
Committee Opinion Number 01-02, dated May 24, 2011, available at https://www.sband.org/userfiles/files/pdfs/ethics/01-02.pdf (lawyer who has been suspended from the practice of law may act as a paralegal, legal assistant, or other type of support staff to a licensed attorney, so long as the suspended lawyer complies with the strictures of In re Application of Christenson, 215 N.W. 2d 970 (N.D. 1974) (meaning, s/he does not obtain clients, retain former client, service claims with the connivance of another lawyer and through the use of another lawyer’s name, or receives a law clerks salary as a surrogate for legal fees), and Rule 5.3 of the North Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct).
(3) The lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that clients, courts,
and other lawyers are aware that a legal assistant is not licensed to practice law.
Importantly, Lawclerk.legal prohibits Lawclerks from providing any of the services set forth in Rule 5.3(d)(2) of the North Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct.
Applying Rule 5.3, the North Dakota Supreme Court held that a lawyer violated Rule 5.3 when he employed a paralegal and put the paralegal primarily in charge of a client’s file when the paralegal has previously worked for the opposing counsel on the other side of the same litigation matter.251 Notably, the court held that nonlawyer employees may work for an opposing firm if appropriate screening processes are put in place.252 To preclude similar conflicts issues, Lawclerk.legal employs a two-tier conflicts check. The first is an internal conflicts check that removes any Lawclerk from selection that has previously worked on matters involving the opposing party to the engagement for which they are being considered. In the second phase of the conflicts check, the Lawclerk must affirm that s/he has no connections to the other parties to the project for which s/he is being considered for engagement.
Rule VII of the Ohio Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar is titled “Unauthorized practice of law” and provides in pertinent part that:
(A) The unauthorized practice of law is:
The Supreme Court of Ohio held that a paralegal working through his own company, Alpha Legal Services, that did not employ any lawyers engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where the paralegal (not a lawyer) made initial contact with the clients, entered into engagement agreements with the clients, advised a criminal client on his plea, researched and filed a motion to suppress evidence on behalf of a client, drafted a motion for full custody and a motion for continuance which were signed by the client and filed by the paralegal, all of which was taken without any lawyer supervision.254 In reaching this conclusion, the court considered representations that a now-deceased lawyer had supervised the paralegal (and therefore the paralegal had not engaged in the unauthorized practice of law), but determined that such representations were not credible as none of the clients had met the lawyer, the engagement agreement did not name the lawyer, and none of the legal documents included the name of the lawyer in the caption or the signature block.255
The Supreme Court of Ohio has also held that when nonlawyers give legal advice and counsel to defendants in collection proceedings in an attempt to settle those cases without the supervision of a barred lawyer, the nonlawyers engage in the unauthorized practice of law.256 Similarly, when nonlawyer document preparation companies use computer software and official court forms to prepare legal documents and pleadings for customers, which necessarily includes providing legal advice in the selection and completion of the forms, the companies engage in the unauthorized practice of law.257
Unlike in Davie, Telford, and Cohen, in Lawclerk.legal, the Lawclerks do not have any client contact and only act at the direction of, and under the supervision of, the Attorney.
Applying Rules 5.3 and 5.5 of the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that a lawyer assisted a nonlawyer in the unauthorized practice of law where the lawyer employed a nonlawyer that operated a business separate from the lawyer’s law firm, but that used the lawyer’s name and where all payroll and expense were run through the lawyer’s accounts.258 Through the business that employed the nonlawyer, without the lawyer’s knowledge or supervision, the nonlawyer: (i) entered into a retention agreement with a client for the provision
of legal services; (ii) told the client that the lawyer would argue the appeal despite the lawyer not being aware of the client; (iii) conducted legal research; and (iv) drafted a motion for post-conviction relief and a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.259
Responding to the inquiry of whether a disbarred or suspended lawyer may question witnesses at a deposition while supervised by a lawyer, the Oklahoma Bar Association Ethics Counsel opined that “[a] licensed supervising attorney may delegate to non-lawyers clerical assignments such as researching case law, finding and interviewing witnesses, examining court records, and delivering papers or messages. However, a licensed supervising attorney must not delegate to a non-lawyer, including a disbarred or suspended lawyer, tasks such as providing legal advice to clients, preparing legal documents for clients, or conducting court proceedings.”260 Further, discussing whether a disbarred lawyer should be reinstated, the Oklahoma Supreme Court affirmatively cited, among other facts supporting reinstatement, that after the nonlawyer was released from prison, he worked as a law clerk for three different lawyers where, under the
supervision of the lawyers, he performed legal research and writing, trial preparation, and clerical work.261
The ethics opinion and Cohen and Martin cases illustrate why Lawclerk.legal does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law as Attorneys maintain the attorney-client relationship, all legal advice is provided to the client by the Attorney, the Lawclerk only performs the services delegated to him/her by the Attorney and supervised by the Attorney, the Attorney retains full responsibility for the Lawclerk’s work, and the Lawclerk cannot have any client contact, contact with any other parties to the case, and cannot appear in court or any other tribunal.
In 1937, the Oregon legislature deleted the definition of the “practice of law” from the unauthorized practice of law statutes.262 Thus, since 1937, the determination of the practice of law has been determined on a case-by-case basis with an understanding that the “practice of law” includes the “exercise of professional judgment in applying legal principals to address another person’s individualized needs through analysis, advice, or other assistance.”263
Applying these strictures, the Oregon appellate court held that nonlawyers selling “do-it-yourself” divorce kits do not engage in the unauthorized practice of law; however, nonlawyers providing consultation, explanation, recommendation, advice, or other assistance in selecting particular forms, filling out the forms, or advising how the forms should be used in solving the
particular customer’s marital problems does constitute the unauthorized practice of law.264 Similarly, a nonlawyer was held to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where he provided, without the supervision of a lawyer, legal advice to his own clients regarding immigration matters, including which application to file, to file a request for re-entry, to travel to Mexico for an embassy interview, and that his client’s immigration application would be treated more favorably if he were to marry.265
Attorneys have further been held to have assisted nonlawyers in the unauthorized practice of law where they have: (i) given a paralegal significant freedom with the lawyer’s clients resulting in the paralegal, without lawyer supervision, examining wills and interpreting them for the lawyer’s clients, discussing a client’s assets to determine whether a living will would be an appropriate device for the client’s use, and providing advice regarding the usefulness of trusts;266 and (ii) allowed a nonlawyer to use pleading paper and a letterhead stamp with the lawyer’s name on it in the nonlawyer’s dissolution-processing business were the lawyer knew that the nonlawyer had been previously warned by the bar not to practice law and with the only lawyer supervision being an instruction to the nonlawyer to bring any legal questions she had to the lawyer.267
Conversely, where a secretary, paralegal, law clerk, or a disbarred lawyer composes and types legal documents, such as contracts, affidavits, and correspondence, at the direction of a barred lawyer, but is not the person “actually acting as the attorney for a client,” such conduct does not constitute the unauthorized practice of law.268 Additionally, Formal Opinion No. 2005-24 issued by the Oregon Board of Governors provides that a lawyer may employ a suspended or disbarred lawyer to assist the lawyer in performing functions that do not include giving legal advice and can lawfully be performed by nonlawyers, such as legal assistants or law clerks.269 Consistent with these decisions, Lawclerk.legal allows Attorneys to obtain paraprofessional assistance from the Lawclerks without the Lawclerks having any contact with the Attorney’s client and ensures that all legal advice is provided to the client by the Attorney (not the Lawclerk).
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has “not attempted to provide a comprehensive statement of what activities comprise the practice of law,” instead holding that what specific activities
constitute the practice of law must be determined on a case by case basis.270 However, the court has expressed that the “practice of law is implicated by the holding out of oneself to the public as competent to exercise legal judgment and the implication that he or she has the technical competence to analyze legal problems and the requisite character qualifications to act in a representative capacity.”271 The prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law serves to protect Pennsylvania’s citizens, to protect the public’s interest in competent legal representation, and to insure the integrity of the legal system.272
Consistent therewith, the Pennsylvania Bar Association Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee (the “PUPLC”) has issued the following opinions that support the determination that Lawclerk.legal does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law. For instance, in Opinion 96-103, the PUPLC opined that “an organization of paralegals who form for the sole purpose of providing services only to legal counsel admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is not in violation of the Unauthorized Practice of Law statutes of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”273 The PUPLC then expounded that should the paralegals offer their services to the general consumer public with regard to the preparation of legal documents or advice, then they would engage in the unauthorized practice of law.274 Similarly, in Lawclerk.legal, Lawclerks solely provide services to barred Attorneys and have no contact with the Attorney’s clients.
Like Connecticut, North Carolina, and other jurisdictions, the PUPLC has opined that companies such as LegalZoom, Legal Documentation Preparation Services, and We the People that offer legal document preparation services beyond supplying preprinted forms selected by the consumer, whether online or at a site in Pennsylvania, engage in the unauthorized practice of law, unless such services are provided by a person who is duly licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania retained directly for the subject of the legal services.275 Quoting the Connecticut Bar’s Informal Opinion, the PUPLC emphasized that while anyone may sell forms or provide solely clerical assistance in competing them, these companies’ own advertisements evidence their engagement in the unauthorized practice of law: “…These services design, craft and select documents based
on legal research and legal experience, and hold the documents out to be suitable for a particular customer’s needs. Supervising attorneys or experts are also often available during the document preparation process. Their involvement would be an unnecessary expense to any stenographic activity. The involvement adds value only if they are giving legal advice. Attorneys, whether admitted in this state or elsewhere, are prohibited from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in Connecticut by assisting another in doing so in this state.”276 Conversely, Lawclerk.legal prohibits Lawclerks from providing legal services or legal advice to Attorney’s clients; all legal advice is provided by the Attorney to his/her clients.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that the definition of the practice of law and the determination of who may practice law is explicit within its province explaining that the “practice of the law is affected with a public interest. It is, therefore, the right and duty of the state to regulate and control it so that the public welfare will be served and promoted. Assuring protection to duly licensed lawyers and counsellors against invasions of their franchise by unauthorized persons is only incidental or secondary to this primary purpose. Great and irreparable injury can come to the people, and the proper administration of justice can be prevented by the unwarranted intrusion of unauthorized and unskilled persons into the practice of the law.277
Consistent with this policy, the Rhode Island Supreme Court found that “Southside Professional Services” – a company whose business purpose is to refer its clients to lawyers with whom it has established relationships and to act as an intermediator between the clients and the lawyer during the case – and its owner has engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, where: (i) the marketing materials advertise that the company will provide specific legal services, including criminal defense and assistance with family court matters despite not employing a single lawyer;
In Provisional Order No. 18, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island provided further guidance regarding the application of Rule 5.3 of the Rhode Island Rules of Professional Conduct, stating:
These guidelines shall apply to the use of legal assistants by members of the Rhode Island Bar Association. A legal assistant is one who under the supervision
of a lawyer, shall apply knowledge of law and legal procedures in rendering direct assistance to lawyers, clients and courts; design, develop and modify procedures, technique, services and processes; prepare and interpret legal documents; detail procedures for practicing in certain fields of law; research, select, assess, compile and use information from the law library and other references; and analyze and handle procedural problems that involve independent decisions. More specifically, a legal assistant is one who engages in the functions set forth in Guideline 2. Nothing contained in these guidelines shall be construed as a determination of the competence of any person performing the functions of a legal assistant, or as conferring status upon any such person serving as a legal assistant.
A lawyer shall not permit a legal assistant to engage in the unauthorized practice of law. Pursuant to Rules 5.3 and 5.5 of the Rhode Island Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct, the lawyer shares in the ultimate accountability for a violation of this guideline. The legal assistant remains individually accountable for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.
A legal assistant may perform the following functions, together with other related duties, to assist lawyers in their representation of clients: attend client conferences; correspond with and obtain information from clients; draft legal documents; assist at closing and similar meetings between parties and lawyers; witness execution of documents; prepare transmittal letters; maintain estate/guardianship trust accounts; transfer securities and other assets; assist in the day-to-day administration of trusts and estates; index and organize documents; conduct research; check citations in briefs and memoranda; draft interrogatories and answers thereto, deposition notices and requests for production; prepare summaries of depositions and trial transcripts; interview witnesses; obtain records from doctors, hospitals, police departments, other agencies and institutions; and obtain information from courts. Legal documents, including, but not limited to, contracts, deeds, leases, mortgages, wills, trusts, probate forms, pleadings, pension plans and tax returns, shall be reviewed by a lawyer before being submitted to a client or another party.
In addition, except where otherwise prohibited by statute, court rule or decision, administrative rule or regulation, or by the Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer may permit a legal assistant to perform specific services in representation of a client. Thus, a legal assistant may represent clients before administrative
agencies or courts where such representation is permitted by statute or agency or court rules.
Notwithstanding any other part of this Guideline,
A lawyer shall direct a legal assistant to avoid any conduct which if engaged in by a lawyer would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct. In particular, the lawyer shall instruct the legal assistant regarding the confidential nature of the attorney/client relationship, and shall direct the legal assistant to refrain from disclosing any confidential information obtained from a client or in connection with representation of a client.
A lawyer shall direct a legal assistant to disclose that he or she is not a lawyer at the outset in contacts with clients, courts, administrative agencies, attorneys, or when acting in a professional capacity, the public.
A lawyer may permit a legal assistant to sign correspondence relating to the legal assistant's work, provided the legal assistant's non-lawyer status is clear and the contents of the letter do not constitute legal advice. Correspondence containing substantive instructions or legal advice to a client shall be signed by an attorney.
Except where permitted by statute, or court rule or decision, a lawyer shall not permit a legal assistant to appear in court as a legal advocate on behalf of a client. Nothing in this Guideline shall be construed to bar or limit a legal assistant's right or obligation to appear in any forum as a witness on behalf of a client.
A lawyer may permit a legal assistant to use a business card, with the employer's name indicated, provided the card is approved by the employer and the legal assistant's nonlawyer status is clearly indicated.
A lawyer shall not form a partnership with a legal assistant if any part of the partnership's activity involves the practice of law.
Compensation of legal assistants shall not be in the manner of sharing legal fees, nor shall the legal assistant receive any remuneration for referring legal matters to a lawyer.
A lawyer shall not use or employ as a legal assistant any attorney who has been suspended or disbarred pursuant to an order of this Court, or an attorney who has resigned in this or any other jurisdiction for reasons related to a breach of ethical conduct.
Lawclerk.legal complies with and is more restrictive than the foregoing guidelines as only the Attorney may provide legal advice to the Attorney’s client, the Lawclerk is supervised by the Attorney who is ultimately responsible for the Lawclerk’s work product,. The Attorney maintains responsibility for the attorney-client relationship, the Lawclerk reviews the Rules of Professional Conduct and agrees to comply with the rules, including maintaining client confidences, before being engaged on each individual project, the Lawclerk does not have any contact with the Attorney’s client or any other party involved in the matter, the Lawclerk may not sign any documents or pleadings, the Lawclerk may not appear in court, the Lawclerk may not share fees with the Attorney, and disbarred or suspended lawyers are prohibited from being Lawclerks.
The prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law serves to protect the public from unsound legal advice and incompetent representation.280 What constitutes the unauthorized practice of law is fact-driven and must be determined on a case-by-case basis; however, case law
provides general guidelines as to what constitutes the unauthorized practice of law.281 Nonetheless, the South Carolina Supreme Court has acknowledged that the support function of paralegals has increased through the years and articulated a succinct standard of the proper role of paralegals:
the activities of a paralegal do not constitute the practice of law as long as they are limited to work of a preparatory nature, such as legal research, investigation, or the composition of legal documents, which enable the licensed attorney-employer to carry a given matter to a conclusion through his own examination, approval or additional effort.282
The Court further explained that the role of the paralegal is to support the lawyer. A paralegal must work in conjunction with a licensed lawyer. 283 A paralegal crosses the line into the unauthorized practice of law where s/he gives legal advice to a client, consults and offers legal explanations to a client, or makes legal recommendations to a client.284
Consistent with the foregoing authority, the Lawclerk provides services such as legal research, investigation, or the composition of legal documents at the direction of, and under the supervision of, a barred Attorney who retains full responsibility for the Lawclerk’s work product and the attorney-client relationship.
The Supreme Court of South Dakota has aptly described the policy behind its rules of professional conduct, including the prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law, as:
Only those who meet this high fiduciary standard are allowed to assist those in need of competent legal representation:
A certificate of admission to the bar is a pilot's license which authorizes its possessor to assume full control of the important affairs of others and to guide and safeguard them when, without such assistance, they would be helpless. Moreover, in [South Dakota] it is a representation made by this court he [or she] is worthy of the unlimited confidence which clients repose in their attorneys;
trustworthy to an extent that only lawyers are trusted, and fit and
qualified to discharge the duties which devolve upon members of his profession.
In Bonner, the South Dakota Supreme Court held that a law school graduate who was never barred, and without any supervision from a barred lawyer, had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where she: (i) interfered in a criminal matter by engaging in discussions with a defendant and preparing and having a man charged with homicide sign a power of attorney ostensibly to protect his communications with the nonlawyer (despite the objection of the man’s lawyer) who then published a newspaper article about the man, which communications his appointed lawyer believed would not be deemed privileged and would be used against the man at trial; (ii) interfered in a criminal child abuse case by engaging in discussions with the parents and preparing “a report of the court concerning three children” stating the nonlawyer’s opinions on the case, disclosed plea negotiations, and advised the court that the parents would be seeking to transfer the case to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, all of which was undertaken without the consent of, or consultation with, the retained lawyer for the parents; (iii) “meddled in a case,” gave advice, and attempted to file pleadings with the United States Federal District Court; and (iv) represented herself as an attorney and sought to represent a veteran in a benefit appeal despite the fact that the veteran was already represented by a nonlawyer advocate approved by the America Legion, which conduct delayed the veteran’s benefits.286
While a unbarred lawyer may not practice law, the South Dakota Supreme Court has approved of an unbarred lawyer serving as a paralegal and, in such capacity, completing research, investigating matters, and preparing court documents under the supervision of barred lawyers.287 Consistent with the Bonner and Pier decisions, in Lawclerk.legal, a Lawclerk does not provide any advice to clients, does not have any client contact, does not file documents with any court, and does not appear in any court. Instead, the Lawclerk serves in the role of a paraprofessional role assisting the Attorney, not the Attorney’s client.
Section 16-18-34.2 of the South Dakota Codified Laws is titled “Utilization of legal assistants” and provides:
Utilization of legal assistants by licensed attorneys is subject to the following rules:
A legal assistant may not establish the attorney-client relationship, set legal fees, give legal advice or represent a client in court; nor encourage, engage in, or contribute to any act which would constitute the unauthorized practice of law.
Lawclerk.legal complies with each of the foregoing requirements and is, in fact, more restrictive, in that Lawclerks are prohibited from having any client contact and cannot sign correspondence or be identified on the Attorney’s letterhead or business cards.
The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that “[t]he purpose of our statutes regulating the practice of law is to prevent the public’s being preyed upon by those who, for valuable consideration, seek to perform services which require skill, training and character, without adequate qualifications.”289 Stated otherwise, the “practice of law by untrained persons endangers the public’s personal and property rights, as well as the orderly administration of the judicial system. [citation omitted] Thus, the purpose of the statutory prohibition against the unauthorized practice of law protects the public by ensuring that the public receives high quality legal services.”290 Consistent therewith, the Attorneys in Lawclerk.legal are solely responsible for the attorney-client relationship and all legal advice provided by the Attorney to his/her client.
In Rose, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee determined that a nonlawyer who operated a franchise that provided preparation services for bankruptcy documents had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where the customer packet regarding the preparation of the bankruptcy petition, schedules, and statements that she provided to the franchise’s clients included legal information, legal conclusions, and legal advice in that it provided explicit instructions as to what the legal terms mean, how to fill the schedules out, and to remember cross-references between schedules, as well as provided customers statutory information regarding Tennessee’s real and personal property exemptions.291 Additionally, the nonlawyer bankruptcy petition preparer would review the completed packets and direct the clients to complete omitted sections and advised them about their rights with regard to collections once their bankruptcy petition had been filed, all without any lawyer supervision.292 While the franchise paid a “supervising attorney” and included in the engagement agreement that the client may contact the “supervising attorney” by telephone and “he/she will provide general legal information to assist me in the handling of my legal matter on my own,” it also stated that the client understands that the “supervising attorney does not represent me” and “can only answer general questions regarding the law and cannot give me specific advice on my matter.”293 This relationship inverts the
permissible lawyer-nonlawyer relationship, because here it is the nonlawyer conducting all client communications and engaging the lawyer to provide limited services. The court further held that such conduct is unfair and deceptive to the client who is led to believe that s/he is receiving specific legal advice regarding his/her bankruptcy issues, which s/he is not.294
Similarly, in Glasgow, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee determined that the owner of a typing service engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where, without any lawyer supervision, she prepared divorce complaints, marital dissolution agreements, final divorce decrees, and
quitclaim deeds, as well as advised her clients about what court and when to file the documents she prepared.295
Unlike in Rose and Glasgow, in Lawclerk.legal, the Attorney provides the legal advice and maintains the attorney-client relationship and all client contact, while the Lawclerk provides discrete services to the Attorney (not the client) for which the Attorney retains full responsibility. Because the Lawclerks solely assist the Attorneys on specific tasks delegated to them by the Attorney and the attorney-client relationship and all client communications remain between the Attorney and his/her client, the practice of law is not being undertaken by “untrained persons endanger[ing] the public’s personal and property rights, as well as the orderly administration of the judicial system.”
Section 81.101 of the Texas Government Code defines the “practice of law” as “the preparation of a pleading or other document incident to an action or special proceeding or the management of the action or proceeding on behalf of a client before a judge in court as well as a service rendered out of court, including the giving of advice or the rendering of any service requiring the use of legal skill or knowledge, such as preparing a will, contract, or other instrument, the legal effect of which under the facts and conclusions involved must be carefully determined.”296
The Texas Court of Appeals held that the publishing, marketing, and distribution of a manual entitled “You and Your Will: A Do-It-Yourself Manual” by a nonlawyer constituted the unauthorized practice of law where: (i) the will manual covered topics in which only a lawyer may advise a client, like specific bequests, residuary estates, executor powers, self-proving affidavits, intestacy, and attestation clauses; (ii) the manual contained fill-in-the-blank forms that can easily confuse nonlawyers; (iii) one section of the manual contained a “create-your-own-will” section advising its readers how to use the clauses contained in the manual to create his/her own will; (iv) the manual contained certain wills that were not valid in Texas; (v) and the manual had not been
reviewed by any lawyer for legal accuracy.297 In reaching its conclusion, the court focused on the fact that the manual goes “well beyond simply layman’s advice” by advising a layperson how to draft a will and leading the public to falsely believe that testamentary dispositions can be standardized.298 “Reliance on his forms leads to a false sense of security and often unfortunate circumstances for the general public.”299 Conversely, in Lawclerk.legal, the Lawclerks have no contact with the client or the public, all services provided by the Lawclerk are provided to the Attorney (not the public), and only the Attorney provides legal advice to his/her client.
The practice of law, although difficult to define precisely, is generally acknowledged to involve the rendering of services that require the knowledge and application of legal principles to serve the interests of another with his consent. It not only consists of performing services in the courts of justice throughout the various stages of a matter, but in a larger sense involves counseling, advising, and assisting others in connection with their legal rights, duties, and liabilities. It also includes the preparation of contracts and other legal instruments by which legal rights and duties are fixed.300 Applying this definition, the Utah Supreme Court explained that a paralegal engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by preparing, without lawyer supervision, wills, divorce papers, and pleadings and conducted legal research on behalf of his clients for a fee.301 The critical fact was the lack of lawyer supervision. The Utah Supreme Court went on to explain that the paralegal was not “deprived of his right to perform law-related work” as he “may work as a paralegal under the supervision of an attorney.”302
The Petersen decision underscores why Lawclerk.legal does not violate the prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law. In Lawclerk.legal, the Lawclerk solely operates at the direction of, and under the supervision of, the Attorney. The Lawclerk has no independent client contact and the Attorney remains solely responsible for the advice s/he provides to his/her client.
The following ethics opinions further underscore that the use of paraprofessionals to assist Attorneys in their provision of services to their clients is proper and consistent with Rules 5.3 and 5.5 of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct as long as the lawyer properly supervises the paraprofessional:
The Vermont Supreme Court has held that the “prevention of the unauthorized practice of the law is a matter of public policy in all of the United States. This policy rests upon the necessity of protecting the public rather than the lawyer. It is essential to the administration of justice and the proper protection of society that only qualified persons duly licensed be permitted to engage in the practice of law.”305 However, the Supreme Court of Vermont has also recognized that “[m]ore recent social and legal developments reflect a trend toward a somewhat more purpose-driven approach to defining the scope of the unauthorized practice of law.”306 “[T]hese developments suggest that the general scope of the prohibition against the unauthorized practice of law may not be solely a function of the tasks an individual performs but also reflects a balancing of the risks and benefits to the public of allowing or disallowing such activities.”307 After a detailed
analysis of Vermont case law addressing the unauthorized practice of law, and weighing the risk that “jailhouse lawyers” pose to the individuals they are trying to help against the valuable service of promoting more meaningful access to justice for inmates, the Supreme Court of Vermont concluded that an inmate that provided free legal advice and drafted motions for fellow inmates did not engage in the unauthorized practice of law.308
The Vermont courts have found the unauthorized practice of law where: (i) a nonlawyer accountant held himself out as a lawyer, signed pleadings and other court filings on behalf of his debt collection business clients, and appeared in court on behalf of his clients;309 (ii) a nonlawyer ran a debt collection agency in which, for a fee, he undertook enforced, secured, settled, adjusted, and compromised civil claims, drafted correspondence on behalf of clients threatening legal action, and filed a lawsuit on behalf of a client;310 (iii) a law student, without lawyer supervision, for a fee, offered an individual advice about an ongoing dispute and negotiated a settlement for the individual;311 (iv) a nonlawyer, under debt pooling plans, gave advice in connection with the execution of a note and mortgage, a conditional sale note, an assignment of wages to ward off creditors, and need for going into bankruptcy, and undertook to handle litigation against one of such person;312 (v) a nonlawyer surveyor, who, for a fee, drafted deeds, advised parties with respect to certain rights-of-way created in the deeds, and advised parties “as to the type of estate and manner of holding” that would serve to meet their desires and needs;313 and (vi) a nonlawyer stockholder and officer appeared in court to represent a corporation.314
Consistent with the foregoing policy analysis and case law, Lawclerk.legal does not run afoul of the prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law as the Attorney is responsible for the attorney-client relationship and all legal advice provided to his/her client, the Lawclerk has no client contact and may not appear in court or any other administrative proceeding, and the Attorney maintains sole responsibility for the services provided by the Lawclerk to the Attorney.
Section I of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia is entitled “Unauthorized Practice Rules and Considerations” and includes nine rules addressing the unauthorized practice of law:
a determination of whether non-lawyers should be allowed, in the public interest, to engage in activities that may constitute the practice of law.”).
These Unauthorized Practice Rules preclude the type of conduct determined by case law in other jurisdictions to constitute the unauthorized practice of law. They do not preclude a lawyer from engaging a paraprofessional that has no client contact to assist the lawyer in rendering his/her services to the client. For example, UPC 4-5 provides that:
The preparation of legal instruments such as wills, codicils and trusts by a non-lawyer for another, with or without compensation, goes beyond the area of permitted advice incident to the regular course of a non-lawyer's business.
There is nothing improper, however, in the submission of suggested forms for various types of wills or trusts to lawyers for present or prospective customers of a non-lawyer. Distributing forms of separate administrative or dispositive
provisions setting forth the proper name of a fiduciary, a charity or the like is not improper.
The definition of the “practice of law” provided in the Unauthorized Practice Rules and Considerations further explains that the prohibition on engaging on the Unauthorized Practice of Law serves to protect the attorney-client relationship:
The relation of attorney and client is direct and personal, and a person, natural or artificial, who undertakes the duties and responsibilities of an attorney is nonetheless practicing law though such person may employ others to whom may be committed the actual performance of such duties.
The gravity of the consequences to society resulting from abuses of this relation demands that those assuming to advise or to represent others shall be properly
trained and educated, and be subject to a peculiar discipline. That fact, and the necessity for protection of society in its affairs and in the ordered proceedings of its tribunals, have developed the principles which serve to define the practice of law.
Generally, the relation of attorney and client exists, and one is deemed to be practicing law whenever he furnishes to another advice or service under circumstances which imply his possession and use of legal knowledge or skill.
Specifically, the relation of attorney and client exists, and one is deemed to be practicing law whenever--
Thus, where Lawclerk.legal serves to preserve and protect the attorney-client relationship by precluding the Lawclerk from having any client contact, while allowing Attorneys to obtain necessary and cost-effective assistance for specific, delegated services from law school graduates, Lawclerk.legal complies with not only the policy behind the prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law, but also the Supreme Court of Virginia’s Unauthorized Practice of Law Rules.
Like other jurisdictions, the Washington Supreme Court has held that the prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law serves to protect the public from actions by those who, because of lack of professional skills, may cause injury whether they are members of the bar or persons
never qualified for or admitted to the bar.318 Consistent therewith, when examining whether nonlawyers are engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, the focus is on the nonlawyer’s communications with the client and the level of lawyer supervision. For instance, a paralegal was held to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where she was the client’s principal (or sole) contact, negotiated settlements on behalf of the client, sent letters rejecting a settlement without the client’s knowledge, and sent demand and representation letters to opposing parties that often failed to identify her as a paralegal and suggested she was a lawyer, all of which was undertaken without any lawyer supervision.319 Similarly, a nonlawyer was held to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law where he represented his own clients without any supervision by a lawyer in the demand and negotiation of car accident injury claims against insured drivers,
prepared pleadings in family court matters, and undertook debt collection efforts in court on behalf of his clients.320
Addressing an inquiry as to whether a lawyer could represent a collection agency that would prepare legal documents, such as complaints, writs of garnishment, and answers using forms prepared by the lawyer, where the lawyer would then review each individual document and sign them after reviewing the individual file in each case, the ethics committed advised that such conduct with be complaint with Rules 5.3 and 5.5 of the Washington Rules of Professional Conduct.321 Similarly, the ethics committee advised that it believed the following arrangement was compliant with the Washington Rules of Professional Conduct because the lawyer would continue to exercise his/her professional judgment prior to any pleadings being served or filed:
The Committee reviewed your inquiry concerning your [barred lawyer’s] conduct in representation of a property management firm which carries out evictions for landlord clients. The Committee understood the facts to be that the management company client would prepare a complaint which had been approved as to form by you, that the complaint would be reviewed and verified by the landlord and that the summons and complaint would then submitted to you for your review and signature. If the tenant filed an answer, it would be served upon you. Any motion and order to show cause would be prepared by you and you would appear at the show cause hearing with the landlord.
If the tenant did not answer, the client prepares a motion for default and associated pleadings on forms provided and approved by you. You again would
review those documents and present them in court. You would bill the client for your services according to an agreed upon fee schedule.
The foregoing cases and ethics opinions illustrate why Lawclerk.legal does not violate the unauthorized practice of law. While the Lawclerk will draft documents and/or conduct research in accordance with the directives provided by the Attorney, the Lawclerk will never appear in court, will never have any client contact, and the Attorney is responsible in all respects for the attorney-client relationship and for the Lawclerk’s work product.
The West Virginia Supreme Court has explained that the unauthorized practice of law serves to protect the public, stating as follows:
The justification for excluding from the practice of law persons who are not admitted to the bar and for limiting and restricting such practice to licensed members of the legal profession is not the protection of the members of the bar from competition or the creation of a monopoly for the members of the legal profession, but is instead the protection of the public from being advised and represented in legal matters by unqualified and undisciplined persons over whom the judicial department of the government could exercise slight or no control.... The licensing of lawyers is not designed to give rise to a professional
monopoly but instead to serve the public right to protection against unlearned and unskilled advice and service in relation to legal matters.
Consistent with other jurisdictions, the West Virginia courts have held that nonlawyers engage in the unauthorized practice of law when they provide legal advice to clients or appear in court or file pleadings on behalf of a corporation324 or a third-party.325
In Battistelli, the West Virginia Supreme Court addressed the situation where a suspended lawyer that began working as a paralegal after his suspension was accused of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.326 In Battistelli, the suspended lawyer/paralegal was accused of holding himself out as a practicing lawyer and giving legal advice to the client regarding the
client’s testimony; however, the suspended lawyer/paralegal denied the accusations.327 While the case was remanded for a factual determination of whether the suspended lawyer had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, the court did not preclude the suspended lawyer from working as a paralegal. Instead, the court supplemented the suspension order to provide that the suspended lawyer could not have any client contact while he was working as a paralegal during his suspension.328
Lawclerk.legal meets the objectives of the prohibition on the unauthorized practice of law as only the Attorney, not the Lawclerk, has contact with the Attorney’s client and the Attorney is responsible for the legal advice and services provided to the client. Further, Lawclerks do not have any client contact, Lawclerks only act at the direction of, and under the supervision of, the Attorney, and the Lawclerks never appear in any tribunal or sign, serve, or file documents on behalf of an Attorney’s client.
In Gehl, the Wisconsin Supreme Court discussed a lawyer’s assistance of a nonlawyer in the unauthorized practice of law, where the lawyer engaged an unlicensed lawyer as a paralegal to draft pleadings and correspondence, conduct discovery, do research, handle communications with the lawyer’s clients, and to make court appearances.329 Similarly, in Gibson, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found that the lawyer had failed to supervise nonlawyers where he delegated the decision of whether and when to file pleadings to a nonlawyer employee and had the client sign blank schedules and statements that were subsequently filled in by the lawyer and/or the nonlawyer.330 Consistent with other jurisdictions, Wisconsin courts have consistently held that nonlawyers engage in the unauthorized practice of law when they appear in court or file pleadings on behalf of a corporation,331 a trust,332 or a third-party. Conversely, in Lawclerk.legal, the Lawclerk has no contact with the client, cannot appear in court, and only acts under the direct supervision of the Attorney.
In Hardy, the Wyoming Supreme Court examined whether a law clerk that prepared wills, some of which were reviewed as being “satisfactory” by a barred lawyer had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.333 In determining that the law clerk had engaged in the unauthorized
practice of law, the court focused on the fact that: (i) the law clerk, not the lawyer, had interviewed the clients to obtain the information necessary to preparing the wills; (ii) the law clerk had represented to the clients that he had prepared more than 100 wills over 25 years, thereby holding himself out as being qualified to provide legal advice; (iii) the law clerk answered the client’s questions, which questions would require the knowledge of a trained lawyer to accurately respond; and (iv) the law clerk did not have a barred lawyer review all of the wills he prepared.334
Similarly, in Herren, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Wyoming held that a nonlawyer document preparation company that exceeded the permissible scope of providing copies of official nonlawyer bankruptcy forms and providing tying services to providing legal advice as to how to complete the schedules and statements, how to select exemptions, and soliciting financial information from the client in order to prepare the schedules and statements for the client engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.335 Unlike in Hardy and Herren, in Lawclerk.legal, the Lawclerk shall have no client contact, the Attorney shall maintain the client relationship and determine the scope of the assignments to be completed by the Lawclerk, and the Attorney maintains full responsibility for the services provided by the Lawclerk.
While the Wyoming case law discussing the unauthorized practice of law is fairly minimal, the Wyoming State Bar provides a Discipline Summary that identifies several examples of conduct that was determined to violate Rule 5.3 of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct, including where: (i) a lawyer failed to adequately supervise a nonlawyer assistant, which failure resulted in the filing of motions for attorney’s fees containing inaccurate billing entries in several cases; and