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.