Last year, the University of St. Mary’s School of Law selected Jayne Reardon, Executive Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, to write a piece about the possibility of lawyers practicing in an alternative business structure (ABS) for the school’s law review.
Jayne’s article on the inclusion of ABS in the profession was recently published in the St. Mary’s Law Journal‘s Volume 7 Number 2 issue, a publication devoted to providing insight on malpractice and legal ethics.
The article entitled Alternative Business Structures: Good for the Public, Good for the Lawyers claims that the addition of an ABS as a business format in which lawyers can practice would be beneficial to both clients and the profession.
Reardon believes restricting lawyers from forming partnerships or ventures with other professionals inhibits a lawyer’s ability to provide effective and equitable legal services to the public. She also states that the profession’s resistance to change isn’t resolving the current access to justice crisis our country is currently facing. Thus, she offers up a possible solution to readers, proposing a regulation reform that would allow lawyers to practice in an ABS format.
In the law review article, Jayne frames her argument for the profession to embrace a new model, by first laying out the history of fee-sharing regulation in the legal profession. She also sheds light on how ABA Model Rule 5.4 came to be and ultimately how it has prevented lawyers from collaborating with other professions to deliver legal services.
Exposing the flaws in the profession’s current business model, Jayne’s article goes on to explain how our model for delivering legal services fails to serve both corporate and individual clients as well as the lawyers themselves.
Jayne also makes a point to showcase how several countries across the globe have successfully incorporated alternative business structures into the profession within their own legal communities. She even breaks down how two of the U.S.’s own jurisdictions collaborate with those outside of the profession.
After providing several ABS success stories, Jayne lays out the pros and cons of adopting the option to include alternative business structures into the profession. She proposes that, state supreme courts consider amending their Rules of Professional Conduct to grant more flexibility to lawyers so they may participate in business ventures with other professions. Jayne even lays the framework for what each state should consider when drafting amendments to their Rules of Professional Conduct.
As consumers continually seek alternatives and other professions change the way they do business, maybe it is time the legal profession jump on the bandwagon. The clock is ticking. But what will the profession decide?