North Carolina

Change Log Entries

Differences from ABA Model Rules

Rule 1.2(c) Limited ScopeSignificant Changes
Rule 5.4(a) Fee-SharingSignificant Changes
Rules 5.4(b)-(d) Non-Lawyer OwnershipSignificant Changes
Rule 5.5. Unauthorized Practice of LawSignificant Changes
Rule 5.7 Law Related ServicesDoes Not Have
Rule 6.5 Limited ScopeSame as Model Rule
Rule 7.2(b) Lawyer ReferralSignificant Changes
Cloud Computing AdvisoryNo
Technology Competency RulesYes

ABA Rule 1.2(c) (Limited Scope)

Rule 1.2 Scope Of Representation and Allocation of Authority between Client and Lawyer

(c) A lawyer may limit the scope of the representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances.

Relevant Comments:

[6] The scope of services to be provided by a lawyer may be limited by agreement with the client or by the terms under which the lawyer’s services are made available to the client. When a lawyer has been retained by an insurer to represent an insured, for example, the representation may be limited to matters related to the insurance coverage. A limited representation may be appropriate because the client has limited objectives for the representation. In addition, the terms upon which representation is undertaken may exclude specific means that might otherwise be used to accomplish the client’s objectives. Such limitations may exclude actions that the client thinks are too costly or that the lawyer regards as repugnant or imprudent.

[7] Although this Rule affords the lawyer and client substantial latitude to limit the representation, the limitation must be reasonable under the circumstances. If, for example, a client’s objective is limited to securing general information about the law the client needs in order to handle a common and typically uncomplicated legal problem, the lawyer and client may agree that the lawyer’s services will be limited to a brief telephone consultation. Such a limitation, however, would not be reasonable if the time allotted was not sufficient to yield advice upon which the client could rely. Although an agreement for a limited representation does not exempt a lawyer from the duty to provide competent representation, the limitation is a factor to be considered when determining the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation. See Rule 1.1.

[8] Although paragraph (c) does not require that the client’s informed consent to a limited representation be in writing, a specification of the scope of representation will normally be a necessary part of any written communication of the rate or basis of the lawyer’s fee. See Rule 1.0(f) for the definition of “informed consent.”

[9] All agreements concerning a lawyer’s representation of a client must accord with the Rules of Professional Conduct and other law. See, e.g. , Rules 1.1, 1.8 and 5.6.

Modified By:

North Carolina State Bar Formal Op. 3 (2008) (A lawyer may assist a pro se litigant by drafting pleadings and giving advice without making an appearance in the proceeding and without disclosing or ensuring the disclosure of his assistance to the court unless required to do so by law or court order.)

North Carolina State Bar Formal Op.10 (2005) (Lawyers may provide services over the internet so long as: 1) the lawyer website includes a physical office address; 2) the lawyer provides competent representation, engaging in the same level of communication and taking precautions as does a lawyer in a law office; 3) the lawyer determines jurisdiction of client and runs comprehensive conflicts checks and; 4) the lawyer takes reasonable precautions to protect confidential information transmitted to and from the client. Lawyers providing services over the internet may offer unbundled client services if they obtain client consent, provide competent representation and follow RPC 1.2 (c).)

North Carolina State Bar Formal Op. 6 (2002) (A lawyer may not represent one party in a divorce and prepare pleadings for the other ( pro se) party to sign, regardless of the willingness of the parties.)

North Carolina State Bar RPC 114 (1991) (Legal services attorneys may provide legal advice and drafting assistance to pro se litigants without appearing as counsel of record. If court approved pleading forms exist, attorneys may make them available to individuals wishing to proceed pro se.)

Burgess v. Vitola, 2008 WL 821539 (N.C.Super.) (In a legal dispute surfaced over an alleged invasion of personal property, the plaintiff resided in North Carolina and the defendant resided in California. The defendant filed papers with the assistance of a California attorney but, on record, represented herself. The plaintiff sought recourse, arguing that assistance from counsel amounted to the unauthorized practice of law since the attorney was not licensed in North Carolina. As the Rules of Professional Conduct do not require an attorney who has provided drafting assistance to make an appearance as counsel of record, the court found that it had no authority to sanction the California attorney. It did, however, require that the defendant file an affidavit that she intended to proceed pro se and not seek legal assistance unless the attorney is licensed to practice in North Carolina.)

Melvin Finance, Inc. v. Artis, 157 N.C. App. 716, 2003 WL 21153426 (N.C.App.) (Defendant retained an attorney on a limited basis, following an action filed by the plaintiff to recover costs on a defaulted loan. Limited representation attorney agreed to file responsive pleadings and negotiate a settlement agreement, and filed a notice of limited appearance. While the defendant received notice of a scheduled hearing and forwarded it to his limited representation attorney, neither defendant nor attorney appeared at the hearing and, consequently, an arbitration award was entered for the plaintiff. Defendant filed a motion to set aside judgment, which was denied. On appeal, the defendant claimed the limited representation attorney’s failure to appear at the hearing amounted to excusable neglect and that the judgment should be set aside. The court found that since the defendant received notice of the hearing and had retained the attorney on a limited basis, that the limited representation attorney’s conduct did not constitute excusable neglect. The lower court decision was affirmed.)

ABA Rule 5.4(a) (Fee-sharing)

Rule 5.4 Professional Independence of a Lawyer

(a) A lawyer or law firm shall not share legal fees with a nonlawyer, except that:

(1) an agreement by a lawyer with the lawyer’s firm, principal, or associate may provide for the payment of money, over a reasonable period of time after the lawyer’s death, to the lawyer’s estate or to one or more specified persons;

(2) a lawyer who purchases the practice of a deceased, disabled, or disappeared lawyer may, pursuant to the provisions of Rule 1.17, pay to the estate or other representative of that lawyer the agreed-upon purchase price;

(3) a lawyer who undertakes to complete unfinished legal business of a deceased lawyer or a disbarred lawyer may pay to the estate of the deceased lawyer or to the disbarred lawyer that portion of the total compensation that fairly represents the services rendered by the deceased lawyer or the disbarred lawyer;

(4) a lawyer or law firm may include nonlawyer employees in a compensation or retirement plan even though the plan is based in whole or in part on a profit-sharing arrangement; and

(5) a lawyer may share court-awarded legal fees with a nonprofit organization that employed, retained or recommended employment of the lawyer in the matter.

Relevant Comments:

[1] The provisions of this Rule express traditional limitations on sharing fees. These limitations are to protect the lawyer’s professional independence of judgment. Where someone other than the client pays the lawyer’s fee or salary, or recommends employment of the lawyer, that arrangement does not modify the lawyer’s obligation to the client. As stated in paragraph (c), such arrangements should not interfere with the lawyer’s professional judgment.

Modified By:

N.C. Formal Ethics Op. 4 (2010) (permissible to participate in barter exchange program that charges transaction fee of 10 percent of value of services being purchased; surcharge similar to credit-card bank’s discount fee)

N.C. Ethics Op. 2005-6 (2005) (lawyer may base legal assistant’s pay upon income generated from assistant’s appearances before Social Security Administration, which permits nonlawyers to appear on behalf of others)

ABA Rule 5.4(b – d) Non-lawyer ownership

Rule 5.4 Professional Independence of a Lawyer

(c) A lawyer shall not permit a person who recommends, engages, or pays the lawyer to render legal services for another to direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment in rendering such legal services.

(d) A lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a professional corporation or association authorized to practice law for a profit, if:

(1) a nonlawyer owns any interest therein, except that a fiduciary representative of the estate of a lawyer may hold the stock or interest of the lawyer for a reasonable time during administration; or

(2) a nonlawyer has the right to direct or control the professional judgment of a lawyer.

Relevant Comments:

[2] This Rule also expresses traditional limitations on permitting a third party to direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment in rendering legal services to another. See also Rule 1.8(f) (lawyer may accept compensation from a third party as long as there is no interference with the lawyer’s independent professional judgment and the client gives informed consent).

[3] Although a nonlawyer may serve as a director or officer of a professional corporation organized to practice law if permitted by law, such a nonlawyer director or officer may not have the authority to direct or control the conduct of the lawyers who practice with the firm.

ABA Rule 5.5 (UPL)

Rule 5.5 Unauthorized Practice of Law

(a) A lawyer shall not practice law in a jurisdiction where doing so violates the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction.

(c) A lawyer admitted to practice in another United States jurisdiction, and not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction, does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law in this jurisdiction if the lawyer’s conduct is in accordance with these Rules and:

(1) the lawyer is authorized by law or order to appear before a tribunal or administrative agency in this jurisdiction or is preparing for a potential proceeding or hearing in which the lawyer reasonably expects to be so authorized;

(2) the lawyer acts with respect to a matter that arises out of or is otherwise reasonably related to the lawyer’s representation of a client in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted to practice and the lawyer’s services are not services for which pro hac vice admission is required;

(3) the lawyer acts with respect to a matter that is in or is reasonably related to a pending or potential arbitration, mediation, or other alternative dispute resolution proceeding in this or another jurisdiction, if the lawyer’s services arise out of or are reasonably related to the lawyer’s representation of a client in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted to practice and are not services for which pro hac vice admission is required; or

(4) the lawyer is associated in the matter with a lawyer admitted to practice in this jurisdiction who actively participates in the representation and the lawyer is admitted pro hac vice or the lawyer’s services are not services for which pro hac vice admission is required.

(d) A lawyer admitted to practice in another United States jurisdiction or in a foreign jurisdiction, and not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction, or the equivalent thereof, does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law in this jurisdiction and may establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in this jurisdiction for the practice of law if the lawyer’s conduct is in accordance with these Rules and:

(1) the lawyer provides legal services to the lawyer’s employer or its organizational affiliates; the services are not services for which pro hac vice admission is required; and, when the services are performed by a foreign lawyer and require advice on the law of this or another US jurisdiction or of the United States, such advice is based upon the advice of a lawyer who is duly licensed and authorized by the jurisdiction to provide such advice; or

(2) the lawyer is providing services limited to federal law, international law, the law of a foreign jurisdiction or the law of the jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted to practice, or the lawyer is providing services that the lawyer is authorized by federal or other law or rule to provide in this jurisdiction.

(e) A lawyer admitted to practice in another United States jurisdiction, and not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction, does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law in this jurisdiction and may establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in this jurisdiction for the practice of law if the lawyer’s conduct is in accordance with these Rules, the lawyer is the subject of a pending application for admission to the North Carolina State Bar by comity, having never previously been denied admission to the North Carolina State Bar for any reason, and the lawyer satisfies the following conditions:

(1) is licensed to practice law in a state with which North Carolina has comity in regard to admission to practice law;

(2) is a member in good standing in every jurisdiction in which the lawyer is licensed to practice law;

(3) has satisfied the educational and experiential requirements prerequisite to comity admission to the North Carolina State Bar;

(4) is domiciled in North Carolina;

(5) has established a professional relationship with a North Carolina law firm and is actively supervised by at least one licensed North Carolina attorney affiliated with that law firm; and

(6) gives written notice to the secretary of the North Carolina State Bar that the lawyer intends to begin the practice of law pursuant to this provision, provides the secretary with a copy of the lawyer’s application for admission to the State Bar, and agrees that the lawyer is subject to these rules and the disciplinary jurisdiction of the North Carolina State Bar. A lawyer acting pursuant to this provision may not provide services for which pro hac vice admission is required, and shall be ineligible to practice law in this jurisdiction immediately upon being advised that the lawyer’s application for comity admission has been denied.

(f) A lawyer shall not assist another person in the unauthorized practice of law.

(g) A lawyer or law firm shall not employ a disbarred or suspended lawyer as a law clerk or legal assistant if that individual was associated with such lawyer or law firm at any time on or after the date of the acts which resulted in disbarment or suspension through and including the effective date of disbarment or suspension.

(h) A lawyer or law firm employing a disbarred or suspended lawyer as a law clerk or legal assistant shall not represent any client represented by the disbarred or suspended lawyer or by any lawyer with whom the disbarred or suspended lawyer practiced during the period on or after the date of the acts which resulted in disbarment or suspension through and including the effective date of disbarment or suspension.

(i) For the purposes of paragraph (d), the foreign lawyer must be a member in good standing of a recognized legal profession in a foreign jurisdiction, the members of which are admitted to practice as lawyers or counselors at law or the equivalent, and are subject to effective regulation and discipline by a duly constituted professional body or a public authority.

Relevant Comments:

[1] A lawyer may practice law only in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is authorized to practice. The practice of law in violation of lawyer-licensing standards of another jurisdiction constitutes a violation of these Rules. This Rule does not restrict the ability of lawyers authorized by federal statute or other federal law to represent the interests of the United States or other persons in any jurisdiction.

[2] There are occasions in which lawyers admitted to practice in another United States jurisdiction, but not in North Carolina, and not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction, may provide legal services on a temporary basis in North Carolina under circumstances that do not create an unreasonable risk to the interests of their clients, the courts, or the public. Paragraphs (c), (d), and (e) identify seven situations in which the lawyer may engage in such conduct without fear of violating this Rule. All such conduct is subject to the duty of competent representation. See Rule 1.1. Rule 5.5 does not address the question of whether other conduct constitutes the unauthorized practice of law. The fact that conduct is not included or described in this Rule is not intended to imply that such conduct is the unauthorized practice of law. With the exception of paragraphs (d) and (e), this Rule does not authorize a US or foreign lawyer to establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in North Carolina without being admitted to practice here. Presence may be systematic and continuous even if the lawyer is not physically present in this jurisdiction. A lawyer not admitted to practice in North Carolina must not hold out to the public or otherwise represent that the lawyer is admitted to practice law in North Carolina. See also Rules 7.1(a) and 7.5(b). However, a lawyer admitted to practice in another jurisdiction who is principal, shareholder, or employee of an interstate or international law firm that is registered with the North Carolina State Bar pursuant to 27 N.C.A.C. 1E, Section .0200, may practice, subject to the limitations of this Rule, in the North Carolina offices of such law firm.

[3] Paragraphs (c), (d), and (e) apply to lawyers who are admitted to practice law in any United States jurisdiction, which includes the District of Columbia and any state, territory, or commonwealth of the United States and, where noted, any foreign jurisdiction. The word “admitted” in paragraphs (c), (d)(2), and (e) contemplates that the lawyer is authorized to practice in the jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted and excludes a lawyer who while technically admitted is not authorized to practice because, for example, the lawyer is on inactive status.

[4] Paragraphs (c), (d), and (e) do not authorize communications advertising legal services in North Carolina by lawyers who are admitted to practice in other jurisdictions. Nothing in these paragraphs authorizes a lawyer not licensed in this jurisdiction to solicit clients in North Carolina. Whether and how lawyers may communicate the availability of their services in this jurisdiction are governed by Rules 7.1-7.5.

[5] Lawyers not admitted to practice generally in North Carolina may be authorized by law or order of a tribunal or an administrative agency to appear before a the tribunal or agency. Such authority may be granted pursuant to formal rules or law governing admission pro hac vice or pursuant to informal practice of the tribunal or agency. Under paragraph (c)(1), a lawyer does not violate this Rule when the lawyer appears before such a tribunal or agency. Nor does a lawyer violate this Rule when the lawyer engages in conduct in anticipation of a proceeding or hearing, such as factual investigations and discovery conducted in connection with a litigation or administrative proceeding, in which an out-of-state lawyer has been admitted or in which the lawyer reasonably expects to be admitted.

[6] Paragraph (c)(2) recognizes that the complexity of many matters requires that a lawyer whose representation of a client consists primarily of conduct in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted to practice, also be permitted to act on the client’s behalf in other jurisdictions in matters arising out of or otherwise reasonably related to the lawyer’s representation of the client. This conduct may involve negotiations with private parties, as well as negotiations with government officers or employees, and participation in alternative dispute-resolution procedures. This provision also applies when a lawyer is conducting witness interviews or other activities in this jurisdiction in preparation for a litigation or other proceeding that will occur in another jurisdiction where the lawyer is either admitted generally or expects to be admitted pro hac vice.

[7] Paragraph (c)(3) permits a lawyer admitted to practice law in another jurisdiction to perform services on a temporary basis in North Carolina if those services are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential arbitration, mediation, or other alternative dispute resolution proceeding in this or another jurisdiction, and if the services arise out of or are reasonably related to the lawyer’s practice in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted to practice. The lawyer, however, must obtain admission pro hac vice in the case of a court-annexed arbitration or mediation or otherwise if court rules or law so require.

[8] Paragraph (c)(4) recognizes that association with a lawyer licensed to practice in North Carolina is likely to protect the interests of both clients and the public. The lawyer admitted to practice in North Carolina, however, may not serve merely as a conduit for an out-of-state lawyer but must actively participate in and share actual responsibility for the representation of the client. If the admitted lawyer’s involvement is merely pro forma, then both lawyers are subject to discipline under this Rule.

[9] Paragraphs (d) and (e) identify three circumstances in which a lawyer who is admitted to practice in another jurisdiction, or a foreign jurisdiction, and is not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction or the equivalent thereof, may establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in North Carolina for the practice of law. Except as provided in these paragraphs, a lawyer who is admitted to practice law in another jurisdiction and who desires to establish an office or other systematic or continuous presence in North Carolina must be admitted to practice law generally in North Carolina.

[10] Paragraph (d)(1) applies to a lawyer who is employed by a client to provide legal services to the client or its organizational affiliates, i.e., entities that control, are controlled by, or are under common control with the employer. This paragraph does not authorize the provision of personal legal services to the employer’s officers or employees. The paragraph applies to in-house corporate lawyers, government lawyers, and others who are employed to render legal services to the employer. The lawyer’s ability to represent the employer outside the jurisdiction in which the lawyer is licensed generally serves the interests of the employer and does not create an unreasonable risk to the client and others because the employer is well situated to assess the lawyer’s qualifications and the quality of the lawyer’s work.

[11] Paragraph (d)(2) recognizes that a lawyer may provide legal services in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is not licensed when authorized to do so by federal or other law, which includes statute, court rule, executive regulation, or judicial precedent.

[12] Paragraph (e) permits a lawyer who is awaiting admission by comity to practice on a provisional and limited basis if certain requirements are met. As used in this paragraph, the term “professional relationship” refers to an employment or partnership arrangement.

[13] The definition of the practice of law is established by N.C.G.S. §84-2.1. Limiting the practice of law to members of the bar protects the public against rendition of legal services by unqualified persons. Paragraph (d) does not prohibit a lawyer from employing the services of paraprofessionals and delegating functions to them, so long as the lawyer supervises the delegated work and retains responsibility for their work. See Rule 5.3.

[14] Lawyers may also provide professional advice and instruction to nonlawyers whose employment requires knowledge of law; for example, claims adjusters, employees of financial or commercial institutions, social workers, accountants and persons employed in government agencies. In addition, a lawyer may counsel nonlawyers who wish to proceed pro se. However, a lawyer may not assist a person in practicing law in violation of the rules governing professional conduct in that person’s jurisdiction.

[15] Paragraphs (g) and (h) clarify the limitations on employment of a disbarred or suspended lawyer. In the absence of statutory prohibitions or specific conditions placed on a disbarred or suspended lawyer in the order revoking or suspending the license, such individual may be hired to perform the services of a law clerk or legal assistant by a law firm with which he or she was not affiliated at the time of or after the acts resulting in discipline. Such employment is, however, subject to certain restrictions. A licensed lawyer in the firm must take full responsibility for, and employ independent judgment in, adopting any research, investigative results, briefs, pleadings, or other documents or instruments drafted by such individual. The individual may not directly advise clients or communicate in person or in writing in such a way as to imply that he or she is acting as a lawyer or in any way in which he or she seems to assume responsibility for a client’s legal matters. The disbarred or suspended lawyer should have no communications or dealings with, or on behalf of, clients represented by such disbarred or suspended lawyer or by any individual or group of individuals with whom he or she practiced during the period on or after the date of the acts which resulted in discipline through and including the effective date of the discipline. Further, the employing lawyer or law firm should perform no services for clients represented by the disbarred or suspended lawyer during such period. Care should be taken to ensure that clients fully understand that the disbarred or suspended lawyer is not acting as a lawyer, but merely as a law clerk or lay employee. Under some circumstances, as where the individual may be known to clients or in the community, it may be necessary to make an affirmative statement or disclosure concerning the disbarred or suspended lawyer’s status with the law firm. Additionally, a disbarred or suspended lawyer should be paid on some fixed basis, such as a straight salary or hourly rate, rather than on the basis of fees generated or received in connection with particular matters on which he or she works. Under these circumstances, a law firm employing a disbarred or suspended lawyer would not be acting unethically and would not be assisting a nonlawyer in the unauthorized practice of law.

[16] A lawyer or law firm should not employ a disbarred or suspended lawyer who was associated with such lawyer or firm at any time on or after the date of the acts which resulted in the disbarment or suspension through and including the time of the disbarment or suspension. Such employment would show disrespect for the court or body which disbarred or suspended the lawyer. Such employment would also be likely to be prejudicial to the administration of justice and would create an appearance of impropriety. It would also be practically impossible for the disciplined lawyer to confine himself or herself to activities not involving the actual practice of law if he or she were employed in his or her former office setting and obliged to deal with the same staff and clientele.

Modified By:

North Carolina Authorized Practice Op. 2002-1, 19 Law. Man. Prof. Conduct 236 (2003) (certain closing duties, including drafting “a legal document for a party … [and] selecting a form legal document among several forms,” constitute practice of law)

North Carolina Authorized Practice Ethics Op. 2002-1, 19 Law. Man. Prof. Conduct 236 (2003) (even if not supervised by lawyer, nonlawyers may disburse funds and present documents necessary for closing to parties, but may not draft or select form legal documents for parties)

North Carolina Authorized Practice Op. 2006-1 (2006) (nonlawyers may speak to administrative bodies for “legislative concerns,” but only lawyers may appear and speak in “representative capacity” before agencies exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions)

Capital Associated Industries, Inc. v. Cooper,   129 F. Supp.3d 281 (M.D. N.C. 2015) (record did not demonstrate that North Carolina’s UPL statutes violated business association’s First Amendment rights or state constitution)

Other Definitions:

AN ACT TO FURTHER DEFINE THE TERM “PRACTICE LAW” FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROTECTING MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC FROM HARM RESULTING FROM THE UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW BY A PERSON WHO IS NOT A TRAINED AND LICENSED ATTORNEY.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:SECTION 1.G.S.84-2.1 reads as rewritten:”§ 84-2.1. “Practice law”defined.

(a)The phrase “practice law” as used in this Chapter is defined to be performing any legal service for any other person, firm or corporation, with or without compensation, specifically including the preparation or aiding in the preparation of deeds, mortgages, wills, trust instruments, inventories, accounts or reports of guardians, trustees, administrators or executors, or preparing or aiding in the preparation of any petitions or orders in any probate or court proceeding; abstracting or passing upon titles, the preparation and filing of petitions for use in any court, including administrative tribunals and other judicial or quasi-judicial bodies, or assisting by advice, counsel, or otherwise in any legal work; and to advise or give opinion upon the legal rights of any person, firm or corporation: Provided, that the above reference to particular acts which are specifically included within the definition of the phrase “practice law” shall not be construed to limit the foregoing general definition of the term, but shall be construed to include the foregoing particular acts, as well as all other acts within the general definition.

(b)The phrase “practice law” does not encompass the encompass:

(1)The drafting or writing of memoranda of understanding or other mediation summaries by mediators at community mediation centers authorized by G.S.7A-38.5 or by mediators of employment-related matters for The University of North Carolina or a constituent institution, or for an agency, commission, or board of the State of North Carolina.

(2)The selection or completion of a preprinted form by a real estate broker licensed under Chapter 93A of the General Statutes, when the broker is acting as an agent in a real estate transaction and in accordance with rules adopted by the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, or the selection or completion of a preprinted residential lease agreement by any person or Website provider.Nothing in this subdivision or in G.S.84-2.2shall be construed to permit any person or Website provider who is not licensed to practice law in accordance with this Chapter to prepare for any third person any contract or deed conveying any interest in real property, or to abstractor pass upon title to any real property,which is located in this State.

(3)The completion of or assisting a consumer in the completion of various agreements, contracts, forms, and other documents related to the sale or lease of a motor vehicle as defined in G.S.20-286(10), or of products or services ancillary or related to the sale or lease of a motor vehicle, by a motor vehicle dealer licensed under Article 12 of Chapter 20 of the General Statutes.”

SECTION 2.Article 1 of Chapter 84 of the General Statutes is amended by adding a new section to read: Ҥ 84-2.2. Exemption and additional requirements for Web site providers.House Bill 436-Ratified(

a)The practice of law, including the giving of legal advice,as defined by G.S.84-2.1 does not include the operation of a Web site by a provider that offers consumers access to interactive software that generates a legal document based on the consumer’s answers to questions presented by the software, provided that all of the following are satisfied:

(1)The consumer is provided a means to see the blank template or the final, completed document before finalizing a purchase of that document.

(2)An attorney licensed to practice law in the State of North Carolina has reviewed each blank template offered to North Carolina consumers, including each and every potential part thereof that may appear in the completed document. The name and address of each reviewing attorney must be kept on file by the provider and provided to the consumer upon written request.

(3)The provider must communicate to the consumer that the forms or templates are not a substitute for the advice or services of an attorney.

(4)The provider discloses its legal name and physical location and address to the consumer.

(5)The provider does not disclaim any warranties or liability and does not limit the recovery of damages or other remedies by the consumer.

(6)The provider does not require the consumer to agree to jurisdiction or venue in any state other than North Carolina for the resolution of disputes between the provider and the consumer.

(7)The provider must have a consumer satisfaction

process.All consumer concerns involving the unauthorized practice of law made to the provider shall be referred to the North Carolina State Bar.The consumer satisfaction process must be conspicuously displayed on the provider’s Website.

(b)A Web site provider subject to this section shall register with the

North Carolina State Bar prior to commencing operation in the State

and shall renew its registration with the State Bar annually.The State Bar may not refuse registration.

(c)Each Web site provider subject to this section shall pay an initial registration fee in an amount not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100.00)and an annual renewal fee in an amount not to exceed fifty dollars ($50.00).

“SECTION 3.G.S.84-10.1 reads as rewritten:”§ 84-10.1. Private cause of action for the unauthorized practice of law.If any person knowingly violates any of the provisions of G.S.84-4 through G.S.84-6 or G.S.84-9, fraudulently holds himself or herself out as a North Carolina certified paralegal by use of the designations set forth in G.S.84-37(a), or knowingly aids and abets another person to commit the unauthorized practice of law, in addition to any other liability imposed pursuant to this Chapter or any other applicable law, any person who is damaged by the unlawful acts set out in this section shall be entitled to maintain a private cause of action to recover damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees.fees and other injunctive relief as ordered by court.No order or judgment under this section shall have any effect upon the ability of the North Carolina State Bar to take any action authorized by this Chapter.

“SECTION 4.The General Assembly shall review the implementation of Section 2 of this act and consider whether the provision should be modified or discontinued by June 30, 2018

ABA Rule 5.7 (Law Related Services)

Rule 5.7 Responsibilities Regarding Law-Related Services

(a) A lawyer shall be subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct with respect to the provision of law-related services, as defined in paragraph (b), if the law-related services are provided:

(1) by the lawyer in circumstances that are not distinct from the lawyer’s provision of legal services to clients; or

(2) by a separate entity controlled by the lawyer individually or with others if the lawyer fails to take reasonable measures to assure that a person obtaining the law-related services knows that the services of the separate entity are not legal services and that the protections of the client-lawyer relationship do not exist.

(b) The term “law-related services” denotes services that might reasonably be performed in conjunction with and in substance are related to the provision of legal services, and that are not prohibited as unauthorized practice of law when provided by a nonlawyer.

Relevant Comments:

[1] A broad range of economic and other interests of clients may be served by lawyers’ engaging in the delivery of law-related services. Examples of law-related services include providing financial planning, accounting, trust services, real estate counseling, legislative lobbying, economic analysis, social work, psychological counseling, tax preparation, and patent, medical or environmental consulting.

[2] When a lawyer performs law-related services or controls an organization that does so, there exists the potential for ethical problems. Principal among these is the possibility that the person for whom the law-related services are performed fails to understand that the services may not carry with them the protections normally afforded as part of the client-lawyer relationship. The recipient of the law-related services may expect, for example, that the protection of client confidences, prohibitions against representation of persons with conflicting interests, and obligations of a lawyer to maintain professional independence apply to the provision of law-related services when that may not be the case.

[3] Rule 5.7 applies to the provision of law-related services by a lawyer even when the lawyer does not provide any legal services to the person for whom the law-related services are performed. The Rule identifies the circumstances in which all of the Rules of Professional Conduct apply to the provision of law-related services. Even when those circumstances do not exist, however, the conduct of a lawyer involved in the provision of law-related services is subject to those Rules that apply generally to lawyer conduct, regardless of whether the conduct involves the provision of legal services. See , e.g., Rule 8.4.

[4] When law-related services are provided by a lawyer under circumstances that are not distinct from the lawyer’s provision of legal services to clients, the lawyer in providing the law-related services must adhere to the requirements of the Rules of Professional Conduct as provided in Rule 5.7(a)(1).

[5] Law-related services also may be provided through an entity that is distinct from that through which the lawyer provides legal services. If the lawyer individually or with others has control of such an entity’s operations, the Rule requires the lawyer to take reasonable measures to assure that each person using the services of the entity knows that the services provided by the entity are not legal services and that the Rules of Professional Conduct that relate to the client-lawyer relationship do not apply. A lawyer’s control of an entity extends to the ability to direct its operation. Whether a lawyer has such control will depend upon the circumstances of the particular case.

[6] When a client-lawyer relationship exists with a person who is referred by a lawyer to a separate law-related service entity controlled by the lawyer, individually or with others, the lawyer must comply with Rule 1.8(a).

[7] In taking the reasonable measures referred to in paragraph (a)(2) to assure that a person using law-related services understands the practical effect or significance of the inapplicability of the Rules of Professional Conduct, the lawyer should communicate to the person receiving the law-related services, in a manner sufficient to assure that the person understands the significance of the fact, that the relationship of the person to the business entity will not be a client-lawyer relationship. The communication should be made before entering into an agreement for provision of or providing law-related services, and preferably should be in writing.

[8] The burden is upon the lawyer to show that the lawyer has taken reasonable measures under the circumstances to communicate the desired understanding. For instance, a sophisticated user of law-related services, such as a publicly held corporation, may require a lesser explanation than someone unaccustomed to making distinctions between legal services and law-related services, such as an individual seeking tax advice from a lawyer-accountant or investigative services in connection with a lawsuit.

[9] Regardless of the sophistication of potential recipients of law-related services, a lawyer should take special care to keep separate the provision of law-related and legal services in order to minimize the risk that the recipient will assume that the law-related services are legal services. The risk of such confusion is especially acute when the lawyer renders both types of services with respect to the same matter. Under some circumstances the legal and law-related services may be so closely entwined that they cannot be distinguished from each other, and the requirement of disclosure and consultation imposed by paragraph (a)(2) of the Rule cannot be met. In such a case a lawyer will be responsible for assuring that both the lawyer’s conduct and, to the extent required by Rule 5.3, that of nonlawyer employees in the distinct entity that the lawyer controls complies in all respects with the Rules of Professional Conduct.

[10] When a lawyer is obliged to accord the recipients of such services the protections of those Rules that apply to the client-lawyer relationship, the lawyer must take special care to heed the proscriptions of the Rules addressing conflict of interest (Rules 1.7 through 1.11, especially Rules 1.7(a)(2) and 1.8(a), (b) and (f)), and scrupulously to adhere to the requirements of Rule 1.6 relating to disclosure of confidential information. The promotion of the law-related services must also in all respects comply with Rules 7.1 through 7.3, dealing with advertising and solicitation.

[11] When the full protections of all of the Rules of Professional Conduct do not apply to the provision of law-related services, principles of law external to the Rules, for example, the law of principal and agent, govern the legal duties owed to those receiving the services. Those other legal principles may establish a different degree of protection for the recipient with respect to confidentiality of information, conflicts of interest and permissible business relationships with clients. See also Rule 8.4 (Misconduct).

Modified By:

N.C. Ethics Op. 2010-13 (2011) (lawyer providing financial services and products to law clients through separate business must comply with Rules 1.7 and 1.8);

ABA Rule 6.5 (Court annexed/Non-profit limited scope)

Same as Model Rule.

Relevant Comments:

[1] Legal services organizations, courts and various nonprofit organizations have established programs through which lawyers provide short-term limited legal services – such as advice or the completion of legal forms – that will assist persons to address their legal problems without further representation by a lawyer. In these programs, such as legal-advice hotlines, advice-only clinics or pro se counseling programs, a client-lawyer relationship is established, but there is no expectation that the lawyer’s representation of the client will continue beyond the limited consultation. Such programs are normally operated under circumstances in which it is not feasible for a lawyer to systematically screen for conflicts of interest as is generally required before undertaking a representation. See, e.g. , Rules 1.7, 1.9 and 1.10.

[2] A lawyer who provides short-term limited legal services pursuant to this Rule must secure the client’s informed consent to the limited scope of the representation. See Rule 1.2(c). If a short-term limited representation would not be reasonable under the circumstances, the lawyer may offer advice to the client but must also advise the client of the need for further assistance of counsel. Except as provided in this Rule, the Rules of Professional Conduct, including Rules 1.6 and 1.9(c), are applicable to the limited representation.

[3] Because a lawyer who is representing a client in the circumstances addressed by this Rule ordinarily is not able to check systematically for conflicts of interest, paragraph (a) requires compliance with Rules 1.7 or 1.9(a) only if the lawyer knows that the representation presents a conflict of interest for the lawyer, and with Rule 1.10 only if the lawyer knows that another lawyer in the lawyer’s firm is disqualified by Rules 1.7 or 1.9(a) in the matter.

[4] Because the limited nature of the services significantly reduces the risk of conflicts of interest with other matters being handled by the lawyer’s firm, paragraph (b) provides that Rule 1.10 is inapplicable to a representation governed by this Rule except as provided by paragraph (a)(2). Paragraph (a)(2) requires the participating lawyer to comply with Rule 1.10 when the lawyer knows that the lawyer’s firm is disqualified by Rules 1.7 or 1.9(a). By virtue of paragraph (b), however, a lawyer’s participation in a short-term limited legal services program will not preclude the lawyer’s firm from undertaking or continuing the representation of a client with interests adverse to a client being represented under the program’s auspices. Nor will the personal disqualification of a lawyer participating in the program be imputed to other lawyers participating in the program.

[5] If, after commencing a short-term limited representation in accordance with this Rule, a lawyer undertakes to represent the client in the matter on an ongoing basis, Rules 1.7, 1.9(a) and 1.10 become applicable.

Modified By:

N.C. Ethics Op. 2014-6 (2014) (lawyer providing free brief consultations to members of nonprofit professional association who might then retain him must conduct full conflicts check; Rule 6.5 not applicable)

N.C. Formal Ethics Op. 3 (2008) (Rule 6.5 does not require participating lawyer to either disclose his assistance to court or ensure client does)

North Carolina Ethics Op. 2014-6 (2014) (Rule 6.5 not applicable to lawyer giving free consultations to members of nonprofit association of nonlawyer professionals; no reason why lawyer could not conduct full conflicts check before initial consultation)

ABA Rule 7.2(b) (Lawyer referral)

Rule 7.2 Advertising

(b) A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services except that a lawyer may

(1) pay the reasonable costs of advertisements or communications permitted by this Rule;

(2) pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit lawyer referral service that complies with Rule 7.2(d), or a prepaid or group legal services plan that complies with Rule 7.3(d); and

(3) pay for a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.17.

(c) Any communication made pursuant to this rule, other than that of a lawyer referral service as described in paragraph (d), shall include the name and office address of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content.

(d) A lawyer may participate in a lawyer referral service subject to the following conditions:

(1) the lawyer is professionally responsible for its operation including the use of a false, deceptive, or misleading name by the referral service;

(2) the referral service is not operated for a profit;

(3) the lawyer may pay to the lawyer referral service only a reasonable sum which represents a proportionate share of the referral service’s administrative and advertising costs;

(4) the lawyer does not directly or indirectly receive anything of value other than legal fees earned from representation of clients referred by the service;

(5) employees of the referral service do not initiate contact with prospective clients and do not engage in live telephone or in-person solicitation of clients;

(6) the referral service does not collect any sums from clients or potential clients for use of the service; and

(7) all advertisements by the lawyer referral service shall:

(A) state that a list of all participating lawyers will be mailed free of charge to members of the public upon request and state where such information may be obtained; and

(B) explain the method by which the needs of the prospective client are matched with the qualifications of the recommended lawyer.

Relevant Comments:

[6] Except as permitted under paragraphs (b)(1)-(b)(3), lawyers are not permitted to pay others for recommending the lawyer’s services or for channeling professional work in a manner that violates Rule 7.3. A communication contains a recommendation if it endorses or vouches for a lawyer’s credentials, abilities, competence, character, or other professional qualities. Paragraph (b)(1), however, allows a lawyer to pay for advertising and communications permitted by this Rule, including the costs of print directory listings, on-line directory listings, newspaper ads, television and radio airtime, domain-name registrations, sponsorship fees, Internet-based advertisements, and group advertising. A lawyer may compensate employees, agents, and vendors who are engaged to provide marketing or client-development services, such as publicists, public-relations personnel, business-development staff, and website designers. Moreover, a lawyer may pay others for generating client leads, such as Internet-based client leads, as long as the lead generator does not recommend the lawyer, any payment to the lead generator is consistent with Rule 1.5(e) (division of fees) and 5.4 (professional independence of the lawyer), and the lead generator’s communications are consistent with Rule 7.1 (communications concerning a lawyer’s service). To comply with Rule 7.1, a lawyer must not pay a lead generator if the lead generator states, implies, or creates an impression that it is recommending the lawyer, is making the referral without payment from the lawyer, or has analyzed a person’s legal problems when determining which lawyer should receive the referral. See also Rule 5.3 (duties of lawyers and law firms with respect to the conduct of nonlawyers); Rule 8.4(a) (duty to avoid violating the Rules through the acts of another).

[7] A lawyer may pay the usual charges of a prepaid or group legal services plan or a not-for-profit lawyer referral service. A legal services plan is defined in Rule 7.3(d). Such a plan assists people who seek to secure legal representation. A lawyer referral service, on the other hand, is any organization that holds itself out to the public as a lawyer referral service. Such referral services are understood by the public to be consumer-oriented organizations that provide unbiased referrals to lawyers with appropriate experience in the subject matter of the representation and afford other client protections, such as complaint procedures or malpractice insurance requirements. Consequently, this Rule only permits a lawyer to pay the usual charges of a not-for-profit lawyer referral service.

[8] A lawyer who accepts assignments or referrals from a prepaid or group legal service plan or referrals from a lawyer referral service must act reasonably to assure that the activities of the plan or service are compatible with the lawyer’s professional obligations. See Rule 5.3. Any lawyer who participates in a legal services plan or lawyer referral service is professionally responsible for the operation of the service in accordance with these rules regardless of the lawyer’s knowledge, or lack of knowledge, of the activities of the service. Legal service plans and lawyer referral services may communicate with the public, but such communication must be in conformity with these Rules. Thus, advertising must not be false or misleading, as would be the case if the communications of a group advertising program or a group legal services plan would mislead prospective clients to think that it was a lawyer referral service sponsored by a state agency or bar association. The term “referral” implies that some attempt is made to match the needs of the prospective client with the qualifications of the recommended lawyer. To avoid misrepresentation, paragraph (d)(7)(B) requires that every advertisement for the service must include an explanation of the method by which a prospective client is matched with the lawyer to whom he or she is referred. In addition, the lawyer may not allow in-person, telephonic, or real-time contacts that would violate Rule 7.3.

Modified By:

N.C. Ethics Op. 2013-10 (2013) (lawyer may participate in “Total Attorneys” advertising website whereby lawyer pays for exclusive geographic lead-generation privileges, if disclosures clear and lawyer does not share fees with service)

N.C. Ethics Op. 2011-10 (2011) (lawyer may use website company to advertise internet “daily deal” coupon, whereby company receives client’s coupon fee, retains portion, and forwards remainder to lawyer; retained sum is cost of advertising and not prohibited referral fee)

N.C. Ethics Op. 2006-7 (2006) (“when advising a client to use the services of a third party, a lawyer must exercise independent professional judgment”)

Cloud Computing

No opinions available.

Technology Competency

Comment under Rule 1.1

Maintaining Competence

[8] To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with the technology relevant to the lawyer’s practice, engage in continuing study and education, and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.