New York

The New York County Lawyer’s Association Task Force on For-Profit, Online Legal Matching Services has issued a report and recommendations for changes to ethics rules. From the Executive Summary:

In a nutshell, the Task Force believes that the current Rules, when applied to FPLMS, are overly restrictive and should be changed, and that we should go even further than the recent NYSBA recommendations. Specifically, we recommend the creation of a new exception to the prohibition on referrals by non-lawyers in Rule 7.2 that would allow lawyers to participate in them as long as the following features are present: (a) the FPLMS fully and prominently disclose their criteria for choosing and rating lawyers; (b) they and the participating lawyer do not violate any of the other advertising Rules in their then-current form (i.e., Rules 7.1, 7.3, 7.4 and 7.5); (c) the lawyers only accept matters they are competent to handle; (d) to the extent the services rate lawyers on their lists, those ratings are based on bona-fide criteria, not solely “pay-6See Bar News/2019/Fall/November House of Delegates Meeting to Discuss Mental Health-Attorney Advertising Rules.8 to-play;” and those criteria are disclosed to the prospective client and (e) FPLMS do not interfere with the lawyer’s professional judgment in determining what services to perform and how much to charge for them. We also recommend revising Section 471 of the New York Judiciary Law to correspond to these changes.


In a new decision by the New York State Bar Association Commission on Professional Ethics (Opinion 1234 on December 7, 2021), New York attorneys, on a case-by-case basis, are allowed to co-counsel with firms that have nonlawyer ownership.  Those firms with nonlawyer ownership must be licensed in their jurisdiction for a New York attorney to comply with Rule 5.4.  The opinion specifies that the attorney may not have an employment relationship with the alternative business structure.