Non-lawyer investors for law firms might be more prevalent in the future.
Jacoby & Meyers, the New York personal injury firm, has filed a lawsuit against the state. They are trying to overturn the rule that prohibits non-attorneys from owning interests in law firms.
Some attorneys are against this shift, including Robert Weber, senior vice-president for legal and regulatory affairs and general counsel of tech giant IBM.
Weber is openly against the idea that law firms should allow outside investment, and wrote about his opinions in a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article.
Weber's objections are something that many attorneys might relate with. He points out potential pitfalls that might arise in a non-lawyer infused system.
For one, he believes that outside influences from business investors may not be in the best interest for clients. After all, attorneys are supposed to zealously advocate for their clients. But there is on such expectation from a non-lawyer investor who pays the bills - and wants a higher return.
Weber is also concerned that outside investment may result in an increased focus on profits. Again, he points out that this might harm the attorney-client relationship.
Though Weber's points are valid, there are arguments in favor of allowing for non-lawyer investments.
The U.S. isn't the only country that is contemplating expanding the rules to allow for non-attorney investment. England and Australia have already done so. In England, you can shop for goods at a store and get a will package at the same place.
This is certainly convenient for consumers. And it can result in lower prices. But is Weber right - would allowing non-lawyer investors to own an equity interest in a firm be detrimental in the long run?
- Selling Pieces of Law Firms to Investors (New York Times)
- North Carolina May Allow Non-Attorneys to Invest in Law Firms (FindLaw's Strategist)