Rhode Island

Differences from ABA Model Rule

Rule 1.2(c) Limited ScopeSame as Model Rule
Rule 5.4(a) Fee-Sharing Significant Changes
Rules 5.4(b)-(d) Non-Lawyer OwnershipSame as Model Rule
Rule 5.5. Unauthorized Practice of LawSignificant Changes
Rule 5.7 Law Related ServicesSame as Model Rule
Rule 6.5 Limited Scope Same as Model Rule
Rule 7.2(b) Lawyer Referral Significant Changes
Cloud Computing AdvisoryNo
Technology Competency RulesNo

ABA Rule 1.2(c) (Limited Scope)

Same as Model Rule.

Relevant Comments:

[4] The objectives or scope of services 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. For example, a retainer may be for a specifically defined purpose. Representation provided through a legal aidagency may be subject to limitations on the types of cases the agency handles. When a lawyer has been retained by an insurer to represent an insured, the representation may be limited to matters related to the insurance coverage. The terms upon which representation is undertaken may exclude specific objectives or means. Such limitations may exclude objectives or means that the lawyer regards as repugnant or imprudent.

[5] An agreement concerning the scope of representation must accord with the Rules of Professional Conduct and other law. Thus, the client may not be asked to agree to representation so limited in scope as to violate Rule 1.1, or to surrender the right to terminate the lawyer’s services or the right to settle litigation that the lawyer might wish to continue.

Modified By:

FIA Card Services, N.A. v. Pichette, No. 2012-272-Appeal (R.I. 2015) (The Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that “An attorney may provide legal assistance to litigants appearing pro se before courts, provided the scope of the attorney’s representation is reasonable and the litigant gives informed consent. See Rule 1.2(c). Such consent shall be in writing and shall set forth the nature and extent of the attorney-client relationship.” The holding also states, however, that an attorney’s involvement in the preparation of pleadings for a self-represented litigant, known as ghostwriting, requires full disclosure. This decision was in response to a set of appeals from three attorneys who did not disclose their identities when they authored pleadings on behalf of pro se defendants in three different debt collection cases. The Supreme Court considered (1) whether Rule 11 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure applies to an attorney who neither signed a pleading nor entered his or her appearance in the case; and (2) whether the anonymous preparation of pleadings for self-represented litigants is permissible under the Rules of Professional Conduct. Ultimately, the Court found that an attorney “shall not assist a pro se litigant with the preparation of pleadings, motions, or other written submissions unless the attorney signs the document and discloses thereon his or her identity and the nature and extent of the assistance that he or she is providing to the tribunal and to all parties to the litigation. The attorney shall also indicate on the written document, if applicable, that his or her signature does not constitute an entry of appearance.”)

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, partner, 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 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

(4)a lawyer or law firm may agree to share a statutory or tribunal-approved fee award, or a settlement in a matter eligible for such an award, with an organization that referred the matter to the lawyer or law firm if: (i) the organization is one that is not for profit; (ii) the organization is tax-exempt under federal law; (iii) the fee award or settlement is made in connection with a proceeding to advance one or more of the purposes by virtue of which the organization is tax-exempt; and (iv) the tribunal approves the fee-sharing arrangement

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:

R.I. Ethics Op. 01-07 (2001) (may pay suspended lawyer on quantum meruit basis for services rendered before suspension)

Inmates of R.I. Training Sch. v. Martinez, 465 F. Supp. 2d 131 (D.R.I. 2006) (policy behind federal civil rights laws authorizes exception to literal application of Rule 5.4(a), even without Rule 5.4(a)(4)).

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

Same as Model Rule.

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.

ABA Rule 5.5 (UPL)

Rule 5.5. Unauthorized practice of law; Multijurisdictional practice of law.

(a)A lawyer shall not practice law in a jurisdiction in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, or assist another in doing so.

(b)A lawyer who is not admitted to practice in this jurisdiction shall not:

(1)except as authorized by these Rules or other law, establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in this jurisdiction for the practice of law; or

(2)holdout to the public or otherwise represent that the lawyer is admitted to practice law in this jurisdiction.

(c)A lawyer admitted in another United States jurisdiction, and not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction, may provide legal services on a temporary basis in this jurisdiction that:

(1)are undertaken in association with a lawyer who is admitted to practice in this jurisdiction and who actively participates in the matter;

(2)are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential proceeding before a tribunal in this or another jurisdiction, if the lawyer, or a person the lawyer is assisting, is authorized by law or order to appear in such proceeding or reasonably expects to be so authorized;

(3)are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential arbitration, mediation, or other alternative dispute resolution proceeding in this or another jurisdiction, 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 and are not services for which the forum requires pro hac vice admission; or

(4)are not within paragraphs (c)(2) or (c)(3) and arise out of or are reasonably related to the lawyer’s practice in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted to practice.

(d)A lawyer admitted in another United States jurisdiction, and not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction, may provide legal services in this jurisdiction that:

(1)are provided to the lawyer’s employer or its organizational affiliates and are not services for which the forum requires pro hac vice admission; or

(2)are services that the lawyer is authorized to provide by federal law or other law of this jurisdiction.

Relevant Comments:

[1] The definition of the practice of law is established by law and varies from one jurisdiction to another. Whatever the definition, limiting the practice of law to members of the bar protects the public against rendition of legal services by unqualified persons. As used in this Rule, the term “jurisdiction” includes not only the separate states, but jurisdictions within a single state as well. Thus, a lawyer may be admitted to practice in the courts of a particular state, but, unless licensed to do so, same may not practice in the federal courts located in that state. Paragraph (b) 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. Likewise, it does not prohibit lawyers from providing

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.

Modified By:

Rhode Island Bar Ass’n v. Lesser, 26 A.2d 6 (R.I. 1942) (nonlawyer held himself out as being qualified to represent others in negotiating settlement of fire insurance claims)

Unauthorized Practice of Law Comm. v. Dep’t of Workers’ Comp., 543 A.2d 662 (R.I. 1988) (upholding statute authorizing nonlawyers to assist injured employees in informal hearings before workers’ compensation department)

Other Definitions:

GENERAL LAWS OF RHODE ISLAND, 1956 TITLE 11. CRIMINAL OFFENSES CHAPTER 27. LAW PRACTICE

§11-27-2. Practice of law defined.

The term “practice law” as used in this chapter shall be deemed to mean the doing of any act for another person usually done by attorneys at law in the course of their profession, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, shall be deemed to include the following:

(1) The appearance or acting as the attorney, solicitor, or representative of another person before any court, referee, master, auditor, division, department, commission, board, judicial person, or body authorized or constituted by law to determine any question of law or fact or to exercise any judicial power, or the preparation of pleadings or other legal papers incident to any action or other proceeding of any kind before or to be brought before the court or other body;

(2) The giving or tendering to another person for a consideration, direct or indirect, of any advice or counsel pertaining to a law question or a court action or judicial proceeding brought or to be brought;

(3) The undertaking or acting as a representative or on behalf of another person to commence, settle, compromise, adjust, or dispose of any civil or criminal case or cause of action;

(4) The preparation or drafting for another person of a will, codicil, corporation organization, amendment, or qualification papers, or any instrument which requires legal knowledge and capacity and is usually prepared by attorneys at law.

ABA Rule 5.7 (Law Related Services)

Same as Model Rule.

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

Same as Model Rule.

ABA Rule 7.2(b) (Lawyer referral)

Rule 7.2. Advertising

(c)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 legal service plan or a not-for-profit lawyer referral service;

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

Relevant Comments:

[6] A lawyer is allowed to pay for advertising permitted by this Rule, but otherwise is not permitted to pay another person for channeling professional work. This restriction does not prevent an organization or person other than the lawyer from advertising or recommending the lawyer’s services. Thus, a legal aid agency or prepaid legal services plan may pay to advertise legal services provided under its auspices. Likewise, a lawyer may participate in not-for-profit lawyer referral programs and pay the usual fees charged by such programs. Paragraph (c) does not prohibit paying regular compensation to an assistant, such as a secretary, to prepare communications permitted by this Rule.

Modified By:

R.I. Ethics Op. 95-5 (1995) (lawyer may not pay percentage of fees to nonprofit, charitable organization that refers clients because organization not registered with state bar)

R.I. Ethics Op. 05-01 (2005) (lawyer may pay flat fee to be listed in online directory; membership fee represents reasonable cost of advertising and does not constitute fee-sharing)

Cloud Computing

No opinions available.

Technology Competency   

Does not require.