I often tell my students that by the time they graduate and pass the bar the regulation of the profession might be different than what we cover in the class. Most recently, I mentioned that in relation to the growing trend of allowing non-lawyers to provide some legal services as "legal technicians."
This year I mentioned it in class in relation to two other topics: advertising regulation and business organizations (or the rules that prevent lawyers from partnering with non-lawyer). And, a couple of weeks ago, the Utah Supreme Court took a decisive step forward in the direction of deregulation that may start a trend toward more changes in the near future.
The proposed changes, posted for a 90-day period of public comment, would amend Utah’s Rules of Professional Conduct to allow fee-sharing with non-lawyers and to allow non-lawyers to have ownership or partnership interest in law firms or other authorized legal services providers. The rules would also amend advertising rules and eliminate Rule 1.5(e) which regulates how lawyers can share fees with lawyers in different firms.
The proposed changes would also establish a two-year pilot of a regulatory sandbox — a regulatory body under the oversight of the Supreme Court, to be called the Office of Legal Services Innovation, whose charge would be to license and oversee new forms of legal providers and services.
This is a significant development that will change the way law is practiced and regulated. It will be interesting to see what the reaction is during the comment period.
For a copy of the proposed changes go here. For a summary of the proposal and comments go to LawSites, and Legal Ethics in Motion.