August 1, 2006 March 1, 2016
RULE 5.3 RESPONSIBILITIES REGARDING NONLAWYER ASSISTANTS
1 With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer:
2 (a) a partner, and a lawyer who individually or together with other lawyers has comparable
3 managerial authority in a law firm, shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has
4 in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the nonlawyer's conduct is compatible
5 with the professional obligations of the lawyer;
6 (b) the lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer shall make reasonable
7 efforts to ensure that the nonlawyer's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations
8 of the lawyer; and
9 (c) a lawyer shall be responsible for conduct of a nonlawyer that would be a violation of
10 these Rules if:
11 (1) the lawyer orders or, with knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct
12 involved; or
13 (2) the lawyer is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which
14 the nonlawyer is employed, or has direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer, and
15 knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated, but fails
16 to take reasonable action.
17 (d) In addition to paragraphs (a), (b) and (c), the following apply with respect to a legal
18 assistant employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer:
19 (1) A lawyer may delegate to a legal assistant any task normally performed by the lawyer
20 except those tasks proscribed to one not licensed as a lawyer by statute, court rule,
21 administrative rule or regulation, controlling authority, or these Rules.
22 (2) A lawyer may not delegate to a legal assistant:
23 (i) responsibility for establishing a lawyer-client relationship;
24 (ii) responsibility for establishing the amount of a fee to be charged for a legal service;
25 (iii) responsibility for a legal opinion rendered to a client; or
26 (iv) responsibility for the work product.
27 (3) The lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that clients, courts, and other
28 lawyers are aware that a legal assistant is not licensed to practice law.
30 Nonlawyers Within the Firm
31  Lawyers generally employ nonlawyers in their practice, including secretaries, legal
32 assistants, investigators, law student interns, and paraprofessionals. These individuals,
33 whether employees or independent contractors, act for the lawyer in rendition of the lawyer's
34 professional services. A lawyer must give such nonlawyers appropriate instruction and
35 supervision concerning the ethical aspects of their employment, particularly regarding the
36 obligation not to disclose information relating to representation of the client, and is
37 responsible for their work product. The measures employed in supervising nonlawyers
38 should take account of the fact that they do not have legal training and are not subject to
39 professional discipline.
40  Paragraph (a) requires lawyers with managerial authority within a law firm to make
41 reasonable efforts to
establish internal policies and procedures designed to provide ensure
42 that the firms has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that nonlawyers in the firm
will and nonlawyers outside the firm who work on firm matters act in a way compatible with
these Rules the professional obligations of the lawyer. See Comment  to Rule 1.1
45 (retaining lawyers outside the firm) and Comment  to Rule 5.1 (responsibilities with
46 respect to lawyers within a firm). Paragraph (b) applies to lawyers who have supervisory
47 authority over
the work of a nonlawyer such nonlawyers within or outside the firm.
48 Paragraph (c) specifies the circumstances in which a lawyer is responsible for the conduct
a nonlawyer such nonlawyers within or outside the firm that would be a violation of these
50 Rules if engaged in by a lawyer.
51  While appropriate delegation of tasks to legal assistants is allowed, a lawyer may not
52 permit a legal assistant to engage in the "practice of law." The key to appropriate delegation
53 is proper supervision, which includes adequate instruction when assigning projects,
54 monitoring of the project, and review of the project. Lawyers should take care in hiring and
55 choosing a legal assistant to work on a specific project to ensure that the legal assistant has
56 the education, knowledge, and ability necessary to perform the delegated tasks competently.
57  The following guidelines have been recognized as helpful in evaluating the education,
58 training or experience of a qualified legal assistant.
59 1) Graduation from one of the following ABA approved legal assistant/paralegal programs:
60 bachelor's degree, associate's degree, or a post-baccalaureate program. If not ABA approved,
61 graduation from a legal assistant/paralegal program that consists of a minimum of 60
62 semester credit hours or the equivalent, of which eighteen semester credit hours are
63 substantive legal assistant/paralegal courses.
64 2) A bachelor's degree in any field, and either one-year employer training as a legal
65 assistant/paralegal or eighteen semester credit hours of legal assistant/paralegal substantive
67 3) Successful completion of a national certifying examination that is specifically designed
68 for legal assistants/paralegals and which includes continuing legal education for maintenance
69 of that certification status.
70 4) Seven years or more of experience working as a legal assistant/paralegal who has been
71 employer trained by and under the supervision of a lawyer.
72  The essential elements of any lawyer-client relationship are the agreement to undertake
73 representation, the scope of that representation, and the fee arrangement relating to that
74 representation. In evaluating whether to undertake the representation, the lawyer must
75 evaluate whether any circumstances exist which would require that the representation be
76 declined (See, Rule 1.16). Rule 1.2 requires that the lawyer consult with the client regarding
77 any limitations on the scope of representation. The lawyer must further obtain the agreement
78 of the client, and in some cases written agreement, with respect to the fee arrangement
79 relating to the representation (See, Rule 1.5). In addition, Rule 2.1 requires a lawyer to
80 exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice. These matters are of
81 such importance that they must be handled personally by the lawyer. Regardless of how the
82 legal assistant may be used in the initial stages of establishing a lawyer-client relationship,
83 i.e., gathering background information from the client and others, preparing initial drafts of
84 fee arrangements, or performing other incidental tasks, the lawyer may not delegate
85 responsibility to a legal assistant or other nonlawyer for deciding whether the representation
86 will be undertaken or for any legal opinion rendered to a client.
Finally, nonlawyers Nonlawyers may not hold themselves out as lawyers. It is the
88 lawyer's responsibility to see that communications about services rendered by the law firm
89 and its nonlawyers are not false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading (See, Rule 7.1), and that
90 nonlawyer employees of the firm understand those limitations. If the lawyer or a legal
91 assistant becomes aware that the role of the legal assistant is unclear, the lawyer has an
92 affirmative duty to clarify the legal assistant's role.
93 Nonlawyers Outside the Firm
94  A lawyer may use nonlawyers outside the firm to assist the lawyer in rendering legal
95 services to the client. Examples include the retention of an investigative or paraprofessional
96 service, hiring a document management company to create and maintain a database for
97 complex litigation, sending client documents to a third party for printing or scanning, and
98 using an Internet-based service to store client information. When using such services outside
99 the firm, a lawyer must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the services are provided in
100 a manner that is compatible with the lawyer's professional obligations. The extent of this
101 obligation will depend upon the circumstances, including the education, experience and
102 reputation of the nonlawyer; the nature of the services involved; the terms of any
103 arrangements concerning the protection of client information; and the legal and ethical
104 environments of the jurisdictions in which the services will be performed, particularly with
105 regard to confidentiality. See also Rules 1.1 (competence), 1.2 (allocation of authority), 1.4
106 (communication with client), 1.6 (confidentiality), 5.4(a) (professional independence of the
107 lawyer), and 5.5(a) (unauthorized practice of law). When retaining or directing a nonlawyer
108 outside the firm, a lawyer should communicate directions appropriate under the
109 circumstances to give reasonable assurance that the nonlawyer's conduct is compatible with
110 the professional obligations of the lawyer.
111  Where the client directs the selection of a particular nonlawyer service provider outside
112 the firm, the lawyer ordinarily should agree with the client concerning the allocation of
113 responsibility for monitoring as between the client and the lawyer. See Rule 1.2. When
114 making such an allocation in a matter pending before a tribunal, lawyers and parties may have
115 additional obligations that are a matter of law beyond the scope of these Rules.
116 Rule 5.3 amended effective 03/01/97, 08/01/06, 03/01/16.
117 Reference: Minutes of the Professional Conduct Subcommittee of the Attorney Standards
118 Committee on 11/08/85 and 01/31/86; Minutes of the Joint Committee on Attorney
119 Standards Meetings of 06/13/95, 09/15/95, 12/01/95, 06/11/96, 08/06/04, 04/08/05, 06/14/05,
120 09/09/05, 09/13/13, 09/12/14.