The California State Bar yesterday released for public comment a series of initiatives that a task force undertook last year. You can find the full initiative here http://www.calbar.ca.gov/About-Us/Our-Mission/Protecting-the-Public/Public-Comment/Public-Comment-Archives/2019-Public-Comment/Options-for-Regulatory-Reforms-to-Promote-Access-to-Justice For your ease of consumption, I am sending along the state bar’s infographic. However, the key components of this public comment are as follows:
- Whether and to what extent non-licensed persons are able to practice law without a license;
- Whether or not attorneys can own any portion or all of a law firm; and
- Whether or not attorneys can receive a split in legal income and fees.
My Bottom Line
My opinion is, overall, that these initiatives are a positive thing for the legal industry. For my clients who own their own firms or are equity partners in their firms, this will immediately increase the value of your firms as a larger pool of buyers are now available. Further, law firms in the UK and Australia already have non-lawyer owners and as a result there is an ABA task force that is simultaneously working on this. The surprise, if any, is California getting ahead of the rest of the United States and contemplating much more flexibility with legal regulations then in times past.
As to non-licensed persons practicing law, this will allow non-licensed persons to do the stuff that lawyers hate to do, i.e, discovery, depositions, and otherwise. We are already seen this type of non-attorney legal work take place in administrative courts around the United States. Rather than being something completely new, this is rather an extension into the traditional halls of law.
With all that said, the significance of this initiative by the California State Bar cannot be understated. If approved and if all are enacted, it will change the way we practice law today. Law will move from a practice and profession into a traditional business. We have been and will continue to coach our clients to run their practices as a business, and when the time comes, be fully prepared to reap the benefits of an enlarged investment base.