ABA Opens the Door to “Non-Traditional Legal Service Providers”


Yesterday, after a heated debate, the ABA House of Delegates adopted Resolution 105, a set of model regulatory objectives. Resolution 105 was controversial because of the last sentence of the proposal, which merely acknowledged that some states are already permitting non-lawyers to provide limited legal services, and others may wish to.

The news yesterday that the delegates from at least five states planned to vote against the resolution generated some heated reactions outside the midyear meeting of the ABA House of Delegates. Jordan Furlong, for example, tweeted “What an embarrassment.” But this morning, Ed Adams said the “ABA showed some guts and passed modest measure to expand access to legal services.” Both he and Furlong offered kudos.

Here is the text of Resolution 105, as adopted.

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association adopts the ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services, dated February, 2016.

ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services

A. Protection of the public
B. Advancement of the administration of justice and the rule of law
C. Meaningful access to justice and information about the law, legal issues, and the civil and criminal justice systems
D. Transparency regarding the nature and scope of legal services to be provided, the credentials of those who provide them, and the availability of regulatory protections
E. Delivery of affordable and accessible legal services
F. Efficient, competent, and ethical delivery of legal services
G. Protection of privileged and confidential information
H. Independence of professional judgment
I. Accessible civil remedies for negligence and breach of other duties owed, and disciplinary sanctions for misconduct
J. Diversity and inclusion among legal services providers and freedom from discrimination for those receiving legal services and in the justice system

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges that each state’s highest court, and those of each territory and tribe, be guided by the ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services when they assess the court’s existing regulatory framework and any other regulations they may choose to develop concerning non-traditional legal service providers.

FURTHER RESOLVED, that nothing contained in this Resolution abrogates in any manner existing ABA policy prohibiting non lawyer ownership of law firms or the core values adopted by the House of Delegates in Resolution 10F, adopted on July 11, 2000.

It’s not clear what effect Resolution 105 will have, if any. I think there is a strong argument to be made that all the controversial provision does is acknowledge reality. But if any state regulators were waiting for a cautious go-ahead from the ABA, now they have it.

In other news from the midyear meeting, the ABA also adopted Resolution 109, urging states to adopt the Uniform Bar Exam. As Jenny Odegard explained last year, wider adoption of the UBE could plan an important role in expanding access to justice.

Featured image: “Many hands raised in a crowd of people” from Shutterstock.


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  • Learned Handjob

    God the ABA is such a disaster. These states actively engaging in the destruction of the profession are off the rails. Is the AMA going to allow ‘holistic healers’ to practice medicine because there’s a “lack of access to doctors?”

    I simply cannot figure out why attorneys in this country are so dedicated to destroying the practice of law.

    • This is something (much like the republican party) that lawyers brought upon theirselves. There is a great amount of discontent among the public regarding their options in obtaining counsel (some may be undeserved). Except limited contingency areas of law (personal injury/employment) pay is unrelated to outcomes and class actions leave consumers feeling uncompensated. This isn’t so much a critism as it is a warning, allow a need vacuum to languish in the industry and an entrepreneur will jump in and they may or may not be an attorney.

  • James Boone

    JK, but you are comparing apples to oranges. Your point seems to be that the law practice will be ruined unless people graduate from a traditional brick and mortar school.
    And yes, the AMA did allow non traditional students to become fully licensed as MDs in US.

    Holistic healers are not doctors, as much as political science bachelor graduates are not lawyers. I get that, but a non traditional law student still has to get a JD and pass the bar, like all ABA recognized law school students, in order to practice law (see the only exception in California). If a holistic healer goes to medical school (doesn’t matter which one even in India) passes all 3 USMLE exams and has a successful residency result, then he becomes a doctor with an MD allowed to practice in US. It wasn’t always this way. In fact foreign doctors are allowed to practice in US only since 1970 after following these steps.

    This is still not possible for the law practice. Why is that? Why is it that foreign doctors are allowed to practice in US after completing all the steps, but lawyers aren’t?