Female Law Students Re: Amendments To Model Rules Of Professional Conduct - Center for Professional Responsibility

 Sherwin Simmons, Chair
American Bar Association Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice
541 North Fairbanks Court
Chicago, Illinois 60611

 

Dear Mr. Simmons:

We understand that your committee has recommended that the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct be amended to allow lawyers to partner with, and share fees with, non-lawyers. We also understand that, at its August meeting, the ABA House of Delegates voted not to accept this recommendation, and asked your Committee to examine the issue further. Some delegates apparently questioned whether there was any demand by lawyers for changes to the rules to permit alternative practice structures. We write, as female law students and recent law school graduates from accredited schools across the country, to offer our support for changes to the rules that would permit us to have a choice in the practice structure in which we can offer legal services.

Today, roughly half of the first year law students are women, which represents a significant improvement over the last 20 years. While there is almost parity between men and women who are training to enter the profession, there are stark differences at the more senior levels. Look at law firm statistics. According to a recent survey published in the American Lawyer, women account for 38.7 percent of law firm associates, but only 13.1 percent of equity partners. A recent study published by the National Association for Law Placement, Perceptions of Partnership: The Allure and Accessibility of the Brass Ring, explores the reasons why women do not remain in the private practice of law. That report finds that women and lawyers of color perceive unequal opportunities to do interesting and exciting work in law firms. They also feel that they lack female role models and mentors in law firms and are dissatisfied with the lack of training and career development. They believe that law firms, with their emphasis on billable hours and quantity over quality of work, have not accommodated the flexible work schedules required to balance the needs of families against job demands. Even firms that allow part-time schedules often end up penalizing their part-time lawyers with less desirable work assignments and derailment from the partnership track.

There is a sense that the barriers to partnership in a law firm cannot be surmounted by hard work and dedication. As a result, young attorneys, female and male, have become disillusioned with their law firms. Many move from firm to firm, seeking a better environment.

Others cannot find satisfaction in private law firms at all. And, while they may be attracted to the work environments found at, for example, management consulting, policy analysis, real estate, retail, publishing or accounting firms, they discover that they are not permitted to use their law licenses to practice law in such firms. Instead, these lawyers are left with the less than satisfactory option of taking law-related positions at such firms – positions in which they may rely upon their legal training, but are prohibited from providing legal services.

Current ethics rules give us no choice. We can only deliver legal services to private clients in a traditional law firm. While many of us will likely begin our careers at traditional law firms, we want the freedom and the opportunity to choose to practice, as lawyers, with other professionals in a multidisciplinary firm. We do not want to face the unpleasant choice that our colleagues face today – practice law in a law firm or be prohibited from delivering legal services when working for clients in accounting firms, investment banks, government relations firms, real estate agencies, or women’s domestic relations shelters.

Likewise, current ethics rules give clients no choice. We, like many others, see great client advantage from the ability to choose a multidisciplinary service provider. Virtually every problem today has a legal component. At the same time, many individuals do not have lawyers to help them solve such problems. Clients instead often rely on other service providers, in part because they do not want to bounce from lawyer to accountant to social worker, educate each professional about a different aspect of the same problem, and possibly obtain conflicting advice. They want one answer that resolves the problem, as efficiently and economically as possible. This is precisely the kind of assistance they would receive from a multidisciplinary firm. The legal marketplace has plenty of room for competitors, and there should be room for all sorts of service providers to accommodate different client needs.

The debate over multidisciplinary practices is a debate over the future of the profession, which, as soon to be lawyers and young lawyers, is our future. Our legal training and law licenses are very important to us, and we want the option to use both to deliver legal services in non-traditional practice structures. We believe that multidisciplinary partnerships between lawyers and non-lawyers provide an attractive alternative to the traditional law firm, and we urge the bar to reform its rules to permit such structures.


Sincerely,
Elizabeth A. Doherty
UC Hastings College of the Law '01

Sincerely,
Cara E. Cupp '01
UC Hastings College of the Law

Sincerely,
Christopher D. Nathan
UC Hastings College of the Law

Sincerely,
Susan L. Isard
UC Hastings College of the Law

Sincerely,
Amy Kimmel '01
UC Hastings College of the Law

Sincerely,
Dawn S. Sherman
College of William and Mary School of Law '00

Sincerely,
April R. Thompson
College of William and Mary School of Law '02

Sincerely,
Sarah A. Piper
College of William and Mary School of Law '01

Sincerely,
Laura W. Rugless
College of William and Mary School of Law '00

Sincerely,
Shannon McClure
College of William and Mary School of Law '02

Sincerely,
Stephanie Fichter
College of William and Mary School of Law '02

Sincerely,
Cindy Faraone
College of William and Mary School of Law '02

Sincerely,
Laura Byrum
College of William and Mary School of Law '02

Sincerely,
Amanda Johnston
College of William and Mary School of Law '02

Sincerely,
Kara McGhee
College of William and Mary School of Law '02

Sincerely,
Cari Collins
College of William and Mary School of Law '02

Sincerely,
Leah Wade
College of William and Mary School of Law '02

Sincerely,
Carrie Klitzke
College of William and Mary School of Law '02

Sincerely,
Kari Footland
College of William and Mary School of Law '02

Sincerely,
Olga Brand
College of William and Mary School of Law '02

Sincerely,
Amy Lamoureux
College of William and Mary School of Law '02

Sincerely,
Elizabeth E. Theran
Yale Law School '01

Sincerely,
Jennifer K. Smith
University of Virginia School of Law '99

Sincerely,
Rebecca Rapp
University of Chicago Law School '00

Sincerely,
Melanie Hansen Sartoris
UCLA School of Law '00

Sincerely,
Camille Carey
UCLA School of Law '01

Sincerely,
Emily Lieberman
UCLA School of Law '01

Sincerely,
Laurel N. Carlin
UCLA School of Law '00

Sincerely,
Dawn Payne
UCLA School of Law '02

Sincerely,
Catherine S. Murphy
UCLA School of Law '00

Sincerely,
Christa L. Shaw '01
UCLA School of Law

Sincerely,
Elizabeth J. K. Siebel '01
UCLA School of Law

Sincerely,
Nicole Deddens
UCLA School of Law 3L


Sincerely,
Alison Yager
UCLA School of Law '01

Sincerely,
Carey Allen
UCLA School of Law '00

Sincerely,
Rachel S. Shapiro
University of Virginia School of Law '99

Sincerely,
Lucy Fowler
Yale Law School '00

Sincerely,
Ariel Cannon
University of Pennsylvania Law School '00

Sincerely,
Sophie Byran
Harvard Law School '00

Sincerely,
Mariana Aguilar
University of Southern California Law School '00

Sincerely,
Nicole Quintana
University of Southern California Law School '00

Sincerely,
Jennifer Chiarelli
University of Southern California Law School '00

Sincerely,
Olivia Martinez
University of Southern California Law School '00

Sincerely,
Amy Epope
Duke University School of Law '01

Sincerely,
Jacqueline Goldberg
Duke University School of Law '00

Sincerely,
Julie O Hoboni
Duke University School of Law

Sincerely,
Abigail V. Carter
University of Michigan Law School '00

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