Today on what the American Lawyer (limited-free link here) reports was ultimately a voice vote, the ABA House of Delegates approved the Model Regulatory Objectives proposed in Resolution 105, previously discussed and listed here and here.
The full Resolution, as amended and adopted, is here. The Objectives survive intact, and the only amendment, pasted below, seems to be more about protecting lawyer-only ownership of law firms than any limitation of the concept of non-lawyer practice.
FURTHER RESOLVED, that nothing contained in this Resolution abrogates in any manner existing ABA policy prohibiting non lawyer ownership of law firms or the core values adopted by the House of Delegates in Resolution 10F, adopted on July 11, 2000.
It would seem to me that this additional language would not require ownership by lawyers of the “non-traditional legal service providers” envisioned by the Resolution, given the differences in the phrases “law firms” and “non-traditional legal service providers,” and traditional rules of statutory construction.
So, given this action, and that by the Conference of Chief Justices on the Objectives last week, this seems to be where we are:
- The ABA has adopted, and the Chiefs have encouraged their members to use, the same set of Model Regulatory Objectives and to do so for both lawyers and non-lawyers.
- While neither group formally urges the adoption of forms of non-lawyer practice, both organizations have effectively acknowledged both the existence of such forms of practice, and the likelihood that additional states beyond those already deploying or considering it, will find the general approach of value.
- So now the issues become much more practical, such as what are the specific regulatory structures, what tasks are to be authorized to be performed by these new professionals, what specific rules will govern their authorization and practice, and what kinds of groups will offer these services. (More on all this in the future.)
While there are likely to be many skirmishes to come, this has been an important few days, and surely one in which the contribution of nonlawyers to getting us to 100% access has moved from being a fringe possibility to a likely major ultimate component.
Congratulations to those involved. This is a important achievement.