In this letter to the State Bar of California, legal ethics professors who are committed to serving the public and ensuring access to justice strongly encourage the Bar to move forward with the proposed regulatory “sandbox” that would allow people and organizations to provide legal services without Rule 5.4’s prohibitions against fee-sharing, ownership, or investment by those who are not lawyers. The current prohibitions contribute to the lack of affordable choices for many individuals and organizations. Countries that allow non-lawyer participation consistently rank ahead of the United States in access to and affordability of legal services.
Reforming Rule 5.4 would benefit both lawyers and consumers. The current rule discourages beneficial business practices, and consumers suffer from a lack of access to affordable, easy-to-use legal services. A more inclusive Rule 5.4 would better serve the public and achieve the ideals of the legal profession.