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Financial Arrangements with Nonlawyers

The full document can be found here


(Rule Approved by the Supreme Court, Effective November 1, 2018)


(a) A lawyer or law firm* shall not share legal fees directly or indirectly with a nonlawyer or with an organization that is not authorized to practice law, except that:


(1) an agreement by a lawyer with the lawyer’s firm,* partner,* or associate may provide for the payment of money or other consideration over a reasonable* period of time after the lawyer’s death, to the lawyer’s estate or to one or more specified persons;*


(2) a lawyer purchasing the practice of a deceased, disabled or disappeared lawyer may pay the agreed-upon purchase price, pursuant to rule 1.17, to the lawyer’s estate or other representative;


(3) a lawyer or law firm* may include nonlawyer employees in a compensation or retirement plan, even though the plan is based in whole or in part on a profit-sharing arrangement, provided the plan does not otherwise violate these rules or the State Bar Act;


(4) a lawyer or law firm* may pay a prescribed registration, referral, or other fee to a lawyer referral service established, sponsored and operated in accordance with the State Bar of California’s Minimum Standards for Lawyer Referral Services; or


(5) a lawyer or law firm* may share with or pay a court-awarded legal fee to a nonprofit organization that employed, retained or recommended employment of the lawyer or law firm* in the matter.


(b) A lawyer shall not form a partnership or other organization with a nonlawyer if any of the activities of the partnership or other organization consist of the practice of law.


(c) A lawyer shall not permit a person* who recommends, employs, or pays the lawyer to render legal services for another to direct or regulate the lawyer’s independent professional judgment or interfere with the lawyer-client relationship in rendering legal services.


(d) A lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a professional corporation or other organization authorized to practice law for a profit if:


(1) a nonlawyer owns any interest in it, except that a fiduciary representative of a lawyer’s estate may hold the lawyer’s stock or other interest for a reasonable* time during administration;


(2) a nonlawyer is a director or officer of the corporation or occupies a position of similar responsibility in any other form of organization; or


(3) a nonlawyer has the right or authority to direct or control the lawyer’s independent professional judgment.


(e) The Board of Trustees of the State Bar shall formulate and adopt Minimum Standards for Lawyer Referral Services, which, as from time to time amended, shall be binding on lawyers. A lawyer shall not accept a referral from, or otherwise participate in, a lawyer referral service unless it complies with such Minimum Standards for Lawyer Referral Services.


(f) A lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a nonprofit legal aid, mutual benefit or advocacy group if the nonprofit organization allows any third person* to interfere with the lawyer’s independent professional judgment, or with the lawyer- client relationship, or allows or aids any person* to practice law in violation of these rules or the State Bar Act.

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