Legal Ethics

Judge May Avoid Ruling on the Merits in Suit Seeking to Allow Law Firm Investors

Jacoby & Meyers may have failed in its personal appeal to a federal judge overseeing its suit seeking to pave the way for nonlawyers to invest in New York law firms.

Jacoby had asserted it needs a judge with a “profile in courage to ensure that antiquated barriers” are cast aside. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan indicated he’s not likely to hear the case, report the New York Law Journal and Thomson Reuters News & Insight.

Kaplan said he would either dismiss the suit for lack of standing or he would abstain from hearing it because state courts were capable of deciding the matter, according to the New York Law Journal account.

The New York Attorney General’s office had claimed the law firm had no standing because it had failed to show a redressable injury. The office represents the defendants—judges who oversee ethics rules.

Jacoby & Myers had argued that the professional conduct rule barring outside ownership “perpetuates economic inequity” because smaller firms don’t have the same access to capital markets for expansion that the larger firms have. Kaplan said that even if Jacoby won its arguments on the ethics rule, other New York state laws also bar outside ownership of firms.

Related coverage: “Nonlawyer Ownership Interests in Law Firms Remains an Unsettled Issue for Ethics 20/20 Commission”

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