In their action asking the Connecticut Federal District Court to enjoin the Judges of the Connecticut Superior Court from enforcing the rule prohibiting non-lawyer investment in law firms, Jacoby & Myers wish to speak for all lawyers licensed to practice in Connecticut. I would prefer they not speak for me. I do not wish to be part of the class.
Quite apart from the question of whether non-lawyer investment in law firms is a good or bad thing for clients, there is the question of process. There is a rule making process for amending the Rules of Professional Conduct. That process typicaly involves amendment to the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which are not binding unless, until and to the extent that they are adopted by individual States. ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 has been studying and gathering information on legal ethics issues relating to globalization and technology. Non-lawyer investment in law firms is one of the issues the Commission is studying. There is a rule making process of changing the Rules of Professional Conduct. That process is better suited to addressing the many issues relating to Rule 5.4, something which, I think, the Jacoby & Meyers complaint implicitly concedes, see Paragraph 32 of the complaint which provides:
32. Indeed, providing ethical, competent representation and making a profit are not mutually exclusive propositions. Law firms have been doing that forcenturies. And the recent experiences of Australia and the United Kingdom provide a panoply of regulatory safeguards that can be implemented to ensure that outside11Case 3:11-cv-00817-CFD Document 1 Filed 05/18/11 Page 12 of 22 investors do not interfere with attorneys’ professional obligations. Whether regulating law firms with outside investors through independent licensing bodies, imposing restrictions on the amount of equity interest non-lawyers can hold, or requiring a legalpractice with non-lawyer owners to appoint a legal director responsible for themanagement, oversight and compliance of lawyers’ professional obligations, there are innumerable ways in which to ensure that a lawyer’s professional “independenceof judgment” remains resolute.
Paragraph 32 describes ways in which non-lawyer investment could be structured to preserve lawyer independence. But, of course, the relief Jacoby & Meyers seeks includes none of those safeguards. The Jacoby & Meyers complaint seeks injunctive relief from a federal court barring the state court from enforcing 5.4, which would result in no holds barred investment in law firms even, presumably, total ownership by non-lawyers, which, could, in my view, signal the end of the legal profession.