The New York State Bar
Association strongly urges the House of Delegates of the American Bar
Association to reject a resolution on provision of legal services
by nonlawyers, because “we cannot lose sight of the core values of our
profession and our commitment to the ethical standards that define
During its meeting in San Diego
next Monday, February 8, 2016, the ABA’s House is scheduled to vote on
Resolution 105, which, if approved, would adopt “ABA Model Regulatory
Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services.”
On January 28, 2016, the
Executive Committee of the New York State Bar Association approved its Working
Group's comments in opposition to the ABA resolution, based in part, on
the Association's longstanding opposition to nonlawyer ownership of law firms,
and nonlawyer provision of legal services without lawyer supervision.
Central to the Working Group's
position is the vagueness of the ABA proposal and the term “legal service
providers” and that the measure can be interpreted as opening the door to
nonlawyer ownership of law firms.
“Nonlawyer ownership of law
firms creates a whole new set of fiduciary responsibilities, which have nothing
to do with the best interests of the clients we are duty-bound to serve,”
said New York State Bar Association President David P. Miranda.
“Investors want to see a
profit; shareholders are owed a fiduciary duty. A lawyer’s professional
judgment should not be compromised by the need to hit quarterly goals,” Miranda
noted "Lawyers' rules of professional responsibility are in place to
protect the public and clients we serve."
The ABA resolution does not
define nonlawyer legal service providers. However, the definition could include
an array of businesses that have sprung up in recent years, including services
that rank and rate individual attorneys, online legal document providers,
and marketing, accounting or e-discovery firms.
In rejecting the ABA proposal,
the New York State Bar Association said Resolution 105 does not properly
address the issue of legal services being provided
with adherence to the core principles of the profession, such as
client confidentiality, lawyer independence and loyalty to legal clients.
The State Bar’s January 28
action noted the efforts of the ABA Commission on the Future of the Legal
“We recognize the need to find
innovative ways to satisfy the unmet legal needs of the public and address
ever-increasing technological change. But despite the importance of these
tasks—and our Association's intent to meet those challenges—we must
not lose sight of the core values of our profession and our ethical
standards. Proposed Resolution 105 does not adequately address these, and until
it does, we cannot support it.”
In calling for the ABA House of
Delegates to reject Resolution 105, Miranda said, “Our State Bar Association
looks forward to a continuing dialogue with the ABA Commission on the Future of
information about the State Bar’s opposition to ABA Resolution 105, the text of
the resolution and related articles, go to: www.nysba.org/ABAresolution105.
The 74,000-member New York State
Bar Association is the largest voluntary bar association in the nation. It was
founded in 1876.
Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director, Media Services and Public Affairs