Lawyer-Nonlawyer Business Ventures: a Limited Affair

, New York Law Journal

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The practice of law is a profession, not a business. One practical application of this tenet is that the New York Rules of Professional Conduct require lawyers to maintain professional independence and to keep legal practice separate from nonlegal services. However, the rules afford lawyers certain specific limited opportunities to engage with nonlawyers to provide legal and nonlegal services to clients and nonclients.1

Prohibited Business Models

Regarding legal services, the guiding ethical principle is that the lawyer must exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of a client not directed or controlled by a nonlawyer. The rules also generally require a strict separation between legal services rendered by lawyers and nonlegal services offered by nonlawyers. These rules in combination prohibit certain joint lawyer-nonlawyer business models.

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