Legal Ethics

Lawyers Practicing Primarily in New York Must Work for Attorney-Owned Firms, Ethics Opinion Says

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Updated: As some jurisdictions throughout the world relax traditional rules about requiring law firms to be owned by lawyers, a question has arisen about possible practice here in the U.S. by attorneys working for such firms.

If, say, an attorney working for a major law firm in United Kingdom, which does now allow nonlawyer ownership, were to practice in the New York office of a London-based legal partnership, would that violate local ethics rules?

The answer to that question apparently is yes, if the attorney practices primarily in the state, according to an ethics opinion from the New York State Bar Association, Reuters reports.

Occasional practice in New York by lawyers working for non-attorney-owned entities, however, would be permitted.

As the Reuters article notes, the American Bar Association, as well as the NYSBA, have appointed task forces to study whether a law firm ownership model that relaxes the traditional attorney-only ownership rule might be appropriate.

Legal Week also has a story.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Nonlawyer Ownership Interests in Law Firms Remains an Unsettled Issue for Ethics 20/20 Commission”

ABAJournal.com: “UK Consumers Could Buy Legal Services With Bread, Milk and Eggs as Soon as January, Under New Law”

ABAJournal.com: “Federal Judge Nixes Jacoby & Meyers Challenge to Non-Lawyer Firm Ownership, Cites Lack of Standing”

Updated on March 22 to include additional information about American Bar Association and NYSBA and link to Legal Week article.

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