Rules of Professional Conduct Related Ethical Opinions

5.3  Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants


05-04: Electronic Storage; Confidentiality

ER's 1.6 and 1.1 require that an attorney act competently to safeguard client information and confidences. It is not unethical to store such electronic information on computer systems whether or not those same systems are used to connect to the internet. However, to comply with these ethical rules as they relate to the client's electronic files or communications, an attorney or law firm is obligated to take competent and reasonable steps to assure that the client's confidences are not disclosed to third parties through theft or inadvertence.  In addition, an attorney or law firm is obligated to take reasonable and competent steps to assure that the client's electronic information is not lost or destroyed. In order to do that, an attorney must be competent to evaluate the nature of the potential threat to client electronic files and to evaluate and deploy appropriate computer hardware and software to accomplish that end. An attorney who lacks or cannot reasonably obtain that competence is ethically required to retain an expert consultant who does have such competence.

01-11: Billing; Unauthorized Practice of Law; Nonlawyers; Employees of Lawyer

A law firm may only contract with an agency that would assist firm clients in preparing forms for medical benefits if: a) the clients are informed about the costs of such support services; and b) the lawyers adequately supervise the work of the Agency (and review the forms) to assure that the Agency's conduct is compatible with the lawyers' ethical obligations.[ERs 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 5.3, 5.5]

01-09: Advertising and Solicitation; Sharing Office Space; Referrals

A group of lawyers who share an office suite but are separate firms may share a common phone number for communications with Spanish-speaking prospective clients and hire a common receptionist simply to route calls to lawyers in the group based upon practice area without being deemed a "referral service." Such an arrangement appears to be group advertising. If the receptionist's only interaction with the prospective clients is to forward the calls to the appropriate attorney, then his or her common employment by the separate firms probably will not impute conflicts among the group members. [ERs 1.6, 1.10, 5.3, 7.1(r)(3), 7.5]

99-13: Paralegals; Nonlawyers; Unauthorized Practice of Law; Employees of Lawyers; Jurisdiction; Conflicts of Law

An Arizona attorney may permit his non-lawyer paralegal, who is a licensed tribal advocate, to represent clients in tribal court if that court’s rules so permit, because that court’s rules govern the conduct. Such representations will not run afoul of the Arizona lawyer’s duty to not assist unauthorized practice of law as long as the paralegal representation is limited to tribal court. [ER 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 8.5]

99-11: Misrepresentation; Investigators; Employees of Lawyers

A private practice lawyer ethically may direct a private investigator or tester to misrepresent their identity or purpose in contacting someone who is the subject of investigation, only if the misrepresentations are for the purpose of gathering facts before filing suit. [ER 4.1, 5.3(c), 8.4(c)]

98-08: Paralegal; Nonlawyer; Estate Planning; Employees of Lawyer; Initial Interviews

An attorney ethically may contract with a paralegal to have the paralegal assist with conducting initial interviews of and signing of documents by estate planning clients, as long as: 1) the attorney supervises and controls the paralegal’s activities to assure that the paralegal does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law; 2) there is no fee sharing; 3) the initial interviews are only with existing clients; and 4) there is no solicitation of new business by the paralegal. [ER 1.6, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 7.3]

96-06: Lawyers Awaiting Admission; Supervision of Non Lawyers; Out of State Lawyers

This opinion provides guidelines for both lawyers who are admitted in other states while they await admission in Arizona and for the Arizona Bar members who supervise those "foreign" lawyers.  The guidelines include a non-exhaustive list of what the foreign lawyers may and may not do while awaiting admission and what supervision is required by the Arizona attorneys.  [ERs 5.3, 5.5, 7.5]

93-01: Non-Lawyer Assistants; Unauthorized Practice of Law; Lawyer Referral Service

Lawyer may not cooperate with a non-lawyer-generated business which prepares documents and gives advice to landlords in landlord/tenant matters.

92-11: Advertising; Referrals; Solicitation

Personal injury lawyer wishes to obtain customer lists from his company/client, so he can send solicitation letters to the customers.

90-10: Declining or Terminating Representation; Responsibilities of Supervisory Lawyer; Responsibilities of Subordinate Lawyer; Professional Independence of Lawyer

Ethical obligations of Public Defender and individual attorneys in his office who are carrying unduly high annual caseloads.

87-27: Responsibilities Regarding Non-Lawyer Assistants; Unauthorized Practice of Law

A lawyer may employ a disbarred lawyer in the same capacity as he would employ any non-lawyer assistant.

86-07: Conflicts; Advisor; Fairness; Non-Lawyer Assistance

Lawyer acquiescing in or recommending to a client a contingent fee contract with medical consulting service for expert testimony is improper.