The American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct provide critical guidance for attorneys and protection for clients, the legal profession, and the public at large. One of these rules, Rule 5.4, safeguards lawyer independence by prohibiting nonlawyers from owning law firms or splitting fees with attorneys. That rule is under attack.
As this research reveals, efforts have been undertaken in several states to erode or even remove Rule 5.4 completely. These efforts receive vocal support from litigation funders, who see direct investment in law firms as a way to dramatically increase their control of—and profit from—civil litigation. ILR’s paper describes the history and importance of Rule 5.4 and explores the movement to weaken it, before concluding with a staunch defense of the rule and a thorough explanation of the dangers that would be created by removing the protections it provides.