LEO: Assisting Nonlawyer in Authorized LE Op. 1077
Assisting Nonlawyer in Authorized Practice of Law.
May 23, 1988
You advise that you recently opened a law practice and have several
clients with needs in the areas of taxation, estate planning and
investments. Although you have experience in these areas, you prefer to
allocate this work to a nonlawyer accountant (non-CPA), whom you will pay
hourly. You state that you intend to clearly inform clients that the
person counseling them is not an attorney and to oversee work performed by
You wish to know whether or not the delegation of this work to an
accountant would violate Canon 3.
DR:3-104 states that a lawyer or law firm may hire personnel to
perform delegated functions under the direct supervision of a licensed
attorney but shall not permit such nonlawyer personnel to (1) counsel
clients about legal matters; (2) appear as counsel in court or in
proceedings which are part of the judicial process; and (3) engage in the
unauthorized practice of law. DR:3-104(B) states that a lawyer or law
firm that employs nonlawyer personnel shall not permit any representation
that such nonlawyer is a lawyer. DR:3-104(C) states that a lawyer in a
law firm that employs nonlawyer personnel should exercise a high standard
of care to assure compliance by the nonlawyer personnel with the
applicable provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility of
employing attorneys. DR:3-104(D) states that the delegated work of
nonlawyer personnel should be such that will assist only the employing
attorney and will be merged into the lawyer's completed product. The
lawyer shall examine and be responsible for all work delegated to
nonlawyer personnel. DR:3-104(E) states that the lawyer or law firm that
employs nonlawyer personnel shall not permit such nonlawyer to communicate
with clients or the public, including lawyers outside the firm, without
first disclosing his nonlawyer status.
As long as the accountant does not counsel your clients with regard to
legal matters, it would not be improper for you to delegate certain tasks
to the accountant. You must also be certain to clearly inform clients that
the accountant is not an attorney and oversee all work performed. The
Committee advises you to carefully consider the provisions of DR:3-104
and to ensure that you comply with this disciplinary rule.
The Committee has referred your letter to the Unauthorized Practice of
Law Committee for their consideration.
Committee Opinion May 23, 1988