Document Type

Article

Publication Title

Arizona Law Review

Publication Date

Winter 2002

Abstract

A lively debate is taking place within the states on the question whether lawyers should be permitted to practice law in professional services organizations that provide both legal and nonlegal services and that are owned, in whole or in part, by nonlawyers. At this time, the states are divided; some endorse the notion of multidisciplinary practice (MDP) while others do not. At its August 2000 meeting, the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates rejected a proposal to permit lawyers practicing in MDPs to render legal services. In so doing, the House urged the states to enforce their laws prohibiting the practice of law by entities other than law firms and, to that end, admonished states to reevaluate and refine their definitions of the "practice of law". The House reasoned that a clear delineation of law practice would enable states to vigorously police the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) by nonlawyers.

This paper argues that the ABA's UPL directive was misguided. Prosecuting UPL actions does not address the core value concerns of those who oppose the emergence or growth of MDPs and therefore is the wrong means for addressing MDP. Moreover, attempts to refine the definition of the "practice of law" in the context of UPL could narrow the scope of services that fall within the boundaries of law practice, with the unintended result that lawyers might not be subject to legal ethics rules when they render services that fall outside of the definition.

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