Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert, which will discuss recent Utah Supreme Court proposals which would permit non-lawyers to own law firms, share fees with lawyers, and make other significant revisions. The link with the Utah Supreme Court Regulatory Reform Proposals is here: http://www.utcourts.gov/utc/rules-comment/2020/04/24/supreme-court-regulatory-reform-proposal-comment-period-closes-july-23-2020/
The proposals would allow non-lawyers to own or invest in law firms, eliminate the prohibition on attorney fee sharing with non-lawyers, and create a new Office of Legal Services Innovation. These proposals result from a review conducted by Utah’s Implementation Task Force on Regulatory Reform, which was created after a working group issued a report in 2019 recommending a variety of measures to address access to legal services. The Utah Supreme Court is requesting comments by July 23, 2020.
If the proposals are implemented, Utah would join the United Kingdom and Australia in permitting such activities and it would the first U.S. jurisdiction to make these changes, although Washington D.C. does allow non-lawyers to own law firms).
If the proposals are adopted, a pilot regulatory “sandbox” would oversee and evaluate nontraditional legal services providers and entities offering new types of legal services. The oversight would be provided by a new Office of Legal Services Innovation, which would conduct reviews to ensure that “sandbox” participants are meeting the various objectives and principles set forth by the Utah Supreme Court. A process would also be established for determining which participants would receive the appropriate license to practice law.
The Utah Supreme Court issued a press release on April 24, 2020 describing the proposals and providing information. The link to the press release is here: http://www.utcourts.gov/utc/rules-comment/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2020/04/Supreme-Court-Regulatory-Reform-PR-4-24-20.pdf. According to the press release:
“The Utah Supreme Court has recognized the lack of affordable legal services can be devastating for many people. Between free but limited legal aid, and standard attorney service that can easily exceed $200 an hour, there are few options for affordable legal help. The current COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of finding new, affordable, and high-quality innovations as quickly as possible.
That is why the Supreme Court is offering expedited review and approval of proposals from individuals and entities who believe they can offer low-cost, or no-cost, legal advice for small businesses, people with unemployment issues, and others.”
Bottom line: These Utah Supreme Court proposals have been under review and consideration in Utah for a number of years and I have previously blogged about them. It now appears that the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing economic disruption have accelerated the Utah Supreme Court’s view of the necessity for these revisions/programs and that the changes be expedited.
Stay safe and healthy and be careful out there.
Disclaimer: this e-mail is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
2999 Alt. 19, Suite A
Palm Harbor, Florida
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670