District of Columbia Bar Opinion 362

Opinion No. 362 of the District of Columbia Bar’s Legal Ethics Committee

Topics: Non–lawyer Ownership of Discovery Service Vendors

Summary of Committee:

Discovery service vendors, such as e–discovery vendors, cannot both practice law within the District of Columbia and be partially or entirely owned by passive non–lawyer investors consistent with D.C. Rule 5.4(b). This Committee’s jurisdiction does not include the definition of the practice of law, but the Committee on Unauthorized Practice of Law has recently issued a detailed opinion explaining what activities by these vendors constitute the practice of law.

The Rules of Professional Conduct do not reach non–lawyer owners of discovery service organizations; they are not subject to bar discipline. The Rules do reach lawyers who co–own or manage such vendors with or on behalf of non–lawyer passive investors. The Rules also could reach lawyer employees of such vendors who know of facts that constitute a violation of Rule 5.4(b) or lawyers who, with similar knowledge, retain such vendors.    

In addition, lawyers who own, manage, work for or retain a discovery service vendor that engages in the practice of law in the District of Columbia and has passive non–lawyer investment may violate the prohibition in Rule 5.5(b) against assisting others in the unauthorized practice of law.”

Rules: 5.2 (Subordinate Lawyers); 5.4(b) (Professional Independence of a Lawyer); 5.5(b) (Unauthorized Practice); 5.7 (Law Related Services); 8.4(a) (Misconduct)


The full text is available at http://www.dcbar.org…