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End-of-life notice: American Legal Ethics Library

As of March 1, 2013, the Legal Information Institute is no longer maintaining the information in the American Legal Ethics Library. It is no longer possible for us to maintain it at a level of completeness and accuracy given its staffing needs. It is very possible that we will revive it at a future time. At this point, it is in need of a complete technological renovation and reworking of the "correspondent firm" model which successfully sustained it for many years.

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Colorado Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct

Comment - Rule 5.4

[1] The provisions of this Rule express traditional limitations on sharing fees. These limitations are to protect the lawyer's professional independence of judgment on behalf of the lawyer's client. Moreover, since a lawyer should not aid or encourage a nonlawyer to practice law, the lawyer should not practice law or otherwise share legal fees with a nonlawyer. This does not mean, however, that the pecuniary value of the interest of a deceased lawyer in the lawyer's firm or practice may not be paid to the lawyer's estate or specified persons such as the lawyer's spouse or heirs. In like manner, profit-sharing retirement plans of a lawyer or law firm which include nonlawyer office employees are not improper. These limited exceptions to the rule against sharing legal fees with nonlawyers are permissible since they do not aid or encourage nonlawyers to practice law. where someone other than the client pays the lawyer's fee or salary, or recommends employment of the lawyer, that arrangement does not modify the lawyer's obligation to the client. As stated in paragraph (c) such arrangements should not interfere with the lawyer's professional judgment on behalf of the lawyer's client. A lawyer should, however, make full disclosure of such arrangements to the client; and if the lawyer or client believes that the effectiveness of lawyer's representation has been or will be impaired thereby, the lawyer should take proper steps to withdraw from representation of the client.

[2] To assist a lawyer in preserving the lawyer's professional independence, a number of courses are available. For example, a lawyer may practice law in the form of a professional legal corporation, if in doing so the lawyer complies with all applicable rules of the Colorado Supreme Court. Although a lawyer may be employed by a business corporation with nonlawyers serving as directors or officers, and they necessarily have the right to make decisions of business policy, a lawyer must decline to accept direction of the lawyer's professional judgment from any nonlawyer. Various types of legal aid offices are administered by boards of directors composed of lawyers and nonlawyers. A lawyer should not accept employment from such an organization unless the board sets only broad policies and there is no interference in the relationship of the lawyer and the individual client the lawyer serves. Where a lawyer is employed by an organization, a written agreement that defines the relationship between the lawyer and the organization and provides for the lawyer's independence is desirable since it may serve to prevent misunderstanding as to their respective roles. Although other innovations in the means of supplying legal counsel may develop, the responsibility of the lawyer to maintain the lawyer's professional independence remains constant, and the legal profession must insure that changing circumstances do not result in loss of the professional independence of the lawyer.

[3] As part of the legal profession's commitment to the principle that high quality legal services should be available to all, lawyers are encouraged to cooperate with qualified legal assistance organizations providing prepaid legal services. Participation should at all times be in accordance with the basic tenets of the profession: independence, integrity, competence, and devotion to the interests of individual clients. A lawyer so participating should make certain that a relationship with a qualified legal assistance organization in no way interferes with the lawyer's independent, professional representation of the interests of the individual client. A lawyer should avoid situations in which officials of the organization who are not lawyers attempt to direct lawyers concerning the manner in which legal services are performed for individual members, and should also avoid situations in which considerations of economy are given undue weight in determining the lawyers employed by an organization or the legal services to be performed for the member or beneficiary rather than competence and quality of service. A lawyer interested in maintaining the historic traditions of the profession and preserving the function of a lawyer as a trusted and independent advisor to individual members of society should carefully assess those factors when accepting employment by, or otherwise participating in, a particular qualified legal assistance organization, and while so participating should adhere to the highest professional standards of effort and competence.

Committee Comment

[4] Subsections (a), (b), and (c) are virtually identical to DR 3-102(A), DR 3-103(A), and DR 5-107(B), respectively. Subsection (d) has been modified so that it now corresponds to DR 5-107(C).

[5] Amended and adopted by the Court, En Banc, June 12, 1997, effective July 1, 1997.