Now Access Legal Ethics Opinions On Your Smartphone

Last week, New York-based lawyers were banned from joining a new type of law firm that would allow external investors—a blow to contending international firms that were considering third-party capital (via FT).

The New York State Bar ruled that New York lawyers cannot practice law in the state if they are part of U.K. law firm with non-lawyer owners after considering the following scenario:

“Lawyers licensed to practice in New York enter a business relationship with a U.K. firm that has non-lawyer owners and managers. The New York lawyers establish a New York office for the firm and represent New York clients. They don’t share confidential information with the non-lawyers and they abide by U.K. rules,” summarizes the WSJ Law Blog.

The New York State Bar ruled that the above scenario violates ethics rule that forbids a lawyer from practicing law for profit with an entity that includes a non-lawyer owner.

Now, blogs (like this one) have already discussed the idea of deregulating the legal industry.

With countless lawsuits accusing law schools of misrepresenting employment statistics and a rise in online legal services, law school graduates are seeking jobs and clients are seeking affordable counsel.

To achieve this, both the Cato Institute and OpenMarket.org believe deregulation is necessary.

“People can represent themselves in small-claims courts, which have simplified procedures, but in many states, such courts can hear only the tiniest legal claims, like those seeking less than $5,000,” states OpenMarket.org (via ATL).

“Every other U.S. industry that has been deregulated, from trucking to telephones, has lowered prices for consumers without sacrificing quality,” continue Winston and Crandall.

The American Bar Association is considering a tweak to its ethics rules, but there is no realistic solution in sight. Despite the dire economic climate for lawyers, the U.S. is hesitant to propose any innovation that would deregulate the law industry.

Although innovation via deregulation has been tabled, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has, in the least, brought legal ethics research into the 21st Century.

In January, the NYSBA announced the release of its Mobile Ethics App—an app for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry—that allows judges, lawyers, and law students to access instant ethics advice from their smartphones.

The NYSBA Mobile Ethics App incorporates the state bar’s catalog of more than 900 legal ethics opinions, dating back to 1964, into a searchable database.

Type keyword searches, enter opinion numbers, or browse a list of categories that include “attorney advertising,” “concurrent representation,” and “non-refundable retainer.”

So, download the app here to get notified each time a new opinion is added.

That way, even if you can’t change the decisions, at least you can read about them in real-time.

-WB

Access the full press release regarding the ethics app here.

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