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Last Post 23 Jun 2020 09:44 AM by  Yolanda Fox
R-20-0034 Petition to Restlye and Amend Supreme Court Rule 31; Adopt New Rule 33.1; and Amend Rules 32, 41, 42 (Various ERs from 1.0 to 5.7), 46-51, 54-58, 60, and 75-76
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Author Messages
Mike Moldoveanu
New Member
Posts:2 New Member

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15 May 2020 12:36 PM
I adopt the reasoning of all my colleagues who have responded in opposition of this Proposal. It is an absolutely terrible idea that does not advance justice for the undeserved.

Mike Moldoveanu
SB: 029914
[email protected]
Charles B. Williamson, esq.
New Member
Posts:2 New Member

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15 May 2020 12:58 PM
Charles B. Williamson, Bar Number 030654
Clausen & Williamson PLLC
2999 N. 44th St., Suite 318, Phoenix, AZ 85018
[email protected]
602-285-4463

Attorneys are bound by the codified Ethical Rules, and for good reason. If left unchecked, there are those who would take advantage of clients and run amok. Law firms wield a tremendous degree of power, and they must be run SOLELY by attorneys who are bound by those ethical rules. Corporate ownership of law firms is the road to ruin. They hide behind phrases like "give the law back to the people," when they really want to strip the ethics out of the practice entirely. Would you let someone who never went to medical school practice brain surgery? Of course not! People realize that restriction is for safety. The restriction preventing non-lawyers from owning law firms is no less important to the economic safety of the citizenry. It just takes one unethical non-lawyer to do irreparable harm to a host of clients who would otherwise be responsibly and ethically served by an attorney-owned firm. Do not change this law. Protect the people of Arizona!
Steven a. Cohen
New Member
Posts:1 New Member

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15 May 2020 04:31 PM

I have been admitted since 1978, and have been certified as a specialist in Injury and Wrongful Death Litigation. Although my expertise is in this area of the law, I believe that I have a good working knowledge of other areas as well. Looking at this Petition objectively, I am very much opposed to it, particularly the amendment eliminating ER 5.4 and 5.7, in order to, inter alia, permit non-lawyers to own and manage law firms, and to make decisions concerning legal disputes.

Overall, I agree with the objections raised by those who have posted in opposition before me. Passage of this Petition would, in my view, lead to conflicts of interest that may not be immediately apparent, and which will create issues that will likely require an inordinate amount of time, money and judicial effort to resolve, further delaying the resolution of any underlying dispute, greatly impacting the litigants and further impacting the view of those whom we strive to represent and serve. As it is, the public’s perception of lawyers and the legal system has been affected by national events that have undermined the Rule of Law.

This rule change is fraught with danger and should not be adopted. While our Court System, and our bar has taken the lead on many issues of national importance, and I am proud to have been a member of the Arizona Bar for more than 40 years, I must respectfully disagree with the proponents of these rule changes, and urge that the Petition be denied.


Steven A. Cohen
Bar No. 5400
Cohen Law
4250 N. Drinkwater Blvd.
Suite 150
Scottsdale AZ 85251
602-677-3216

Tom Ryan
New Member
Posts:1 New Member

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16 May 2020 03:28 PM
Thomas M. Ryan
Law Office of Thomas M. Ryan
565 W Chandler Blvd Ste 210, Chandler, AZ 85225
Phone: (480) 963-3333

I write in opposition to this plan. The idea of the commodification of justice is abhorrent to the rule of law. Allowing non-lawyer ownership of lawyers and law firms will effectively destroy the fiduciary nature of the practice of law. We can see the corrosive effect of money in the political system and the damage that has caused. The same financial pressures will be brought to bear upon lawyers. This proposed set of amendments is nothing more than the Citizens United for lawyers. This will not increase access to justice for those who need it the most. It will simply end up being another effective way to vacuum out the last bit of cash from the poor, the downtrodden, the broken and the oppressed. I would rather see our Court system simplify rules of procedure and roll back court fees for the poor and the middle class. Please do not adopt this mess.

Mark Samson
New Member
Posts:1 New Member

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18 May 2020 11:17 AM
Mark Samson
602-248-0088
Keller Rohrback LLP
3101 N Central Ave Ste 1400
Phoenix, Arizona, 85012-2643

As a 30 year Arizona practitioner, this proposed rule change is misguided and allowing non-lawyer ownership of law practices will add far deeper problems than it seeks to solve. It will reduce the provision of effective, professional representation by introducing the control of the attorney-client relationship by non-professionals who answer only to outside business considerations without the direct, personal influence of the ethical rules. I am also underwhelmed by the chances of the proposed change actually increasing the availability of legal services to under-served population groups. I endorse all of the prior responses against this rule change being made and ask the Court to consider their comments and the proof of the shaky likelihood of the change actually delivering increased legal services. At bottom, I think the proposed change will reduce the quality of all legal services.
Frank Verderame
New Member
Posts:3 New Member

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18 May 2020 11:34 AM
Frank Verderame
316 E Flower St, Phoenix, AZ 85012
Phone: (602) 266-2002

I have read the recent comments regarding this petition and must again register my opposition to the rule change. I agree with the comments recently submitted by Tom Ryan, Charles Williamson, and Steve Cohen. I am prompted to submit this additional comment after reading a comment in favor of the rule change by Laura Hamblin. While I respect the fact that her experience has been different from the majority of lawyers, , I feel that there is a dramatic difference between working with non-lawyers for whom you are employed, and non-lawyers for whom you are acting in a representative capacity in some fashion. Employers have restrictions on the demands that they can make upon employees that are rooted in law. That is clearly very different from a situation where a non-owner is also a non-lawyer, or group of non-owners are non-lawyers, and they have a greater stake or financial interest in the enterprise than the lawyer. The opportunities for abuse and scandal are significant. I believe that the State Bar has good intentions,fully expect the Bar will find itself having to deal with unexpected consequences. I strongly urge the court to reject this proposed rule change.
Yolanda Fox
Basic Member
Posts:237 Basic Member

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18 May 2020 11:34 AM
Colby R. Kanouse, Esq.
Chuck Franklin Law
1920 E. University, Suite 102
Tempe, Arizona 85281
Fax: (480)551-0407
Phone: (480)551-0406 ext. 102
Cell Phone: (480)343-1411

I am opposed to the elimination or modification of ER 5.4. I believe it will create conflicts of interest in numerous respects, which over the long term will further erode the public’s trust in lawyers and the justice system as a whole. A lawyer’s independence is paramount and we cannot maintain that while serving both non-lawyer investors and clients, whose interests may not always line up. Although it is nice to think that lawyers would always do right by their client, even doing so would harm the interests of investors or co-owners of a firm, that is aspirational and not indicative of reality.
Yolanda Fox
Basic Member
Posts:237 Basic Member

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18 May 2020 11:39 AM
Kenneth K. Graham
Arizona State Bar No. 007069
100 N. Stone, Suite 508
Tucson Az 85701
(520) 622-7494

I am strongly against this proposal. I have reviewed many of the other posts that have opposed the Rule change and agree with much of what they have said so i am not going to repeat here what has already been submitted.

I will add that I have been practicing for 39 years now and this Rule change appears to be a wolf in sheep's clothing that seeks to "fix" a problem that is greatly exaggerated in a way that will adversely effect our profession by allowing non-lawyers to practice law. The proposed rule says it is needed because there is a problem with access to the justice system; however, to the extent this is true it fails to tailor a response to the problem that allegedly exists i.e. identify those areas where access is alleged to be missing and respond narrowly to those areas.

Before taking the drastic steps set forth in the proposal, why not explore options such as getting our State Law colleges, or even the Bar itself, to offer forgivable loans to law students who are willing to dedicate a specified period of time to practice in the areas that are identified? I am sure there are other alternatives that should be pursued as well.
Yolanda Fox
Basic Member
Posts:237 Basic Member

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18 May 2020 11:46 AM
Jay L. Ciulla, Attorney
SB # 017971
The Ciulla Law Firm, PLLC
2025 N. 3rd Street, Suite 165
Phoenix, AZ 85004
Telephone (602) 495-0053 Ext. 2
Facsimile (602) 903-6787
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.phoenixazinjurylaw.com

I strongly oppose R-20-0034 and the proposed changes to E.R. 5.4. This rule change proposal seems to be a solution in search of a problem. As a native of Arizona and an attorney with ownership of a local law firm, I believe that out-of-state big-money interests are attempting to take over the Arizona legal market from local lawyers. This will not increase access to justice. In fact, there is no evidence or logical nexus between changing the rules regarding law firm ownership and increasing access to legal services. This rule would change would facilitate ending the practice of law as we know it and this would cease to be a profession at all; this will merely be a business.
Yolanda Fox
Basic Member
Posts:237 Basic Member

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18 May 2020 11:49 AM
Jeff Sparks
Bar No. 018924
Law Office of Jeff Sparks
125 Grove Avenue
Prescott, AZ 86301
928-541-9698
Fax: 928-541-1179
Email: [email protected]

I strongly oppose the above referenced Petition. I adopt the other comments that have quite succinctly set forth the myriad of reasons the Petition should be denied.
Yolanda Fox
Basic Member
Posts:237 Basic Member

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18 May 2020 11:58 AM
Amy Owen, Esq. 029275
Attorney, OWEN LAW FIRM, PLLC
2198 E. Camelback Rd. Suite 310
Phoenix, Arizona 85016
480-788-3367
[email protected]
www.amyowenlaw.com

I strongly OPPOSE the proposed rule change. I agree wholeheartedly with Nancy Greenlee, Geoff Trachtenberg, Ronda Kelso and Matt Fendon's comments on this topic.
Yolanda Fox
Basic Member
Posts:237 Basic Member

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18 May 2020 12:18 PM
Frederick C. Berry, Jr., J.D., CPCU, CLU
State Bar of Arizona #003244
Frederick C. Berry, Jr., P.C.
1951 West Camelback Road, Suite 200
Phoenix, AZ 85015
602-274-5700 FAX: 602-254-0656
www.FrederickCBerry.com

Comment to the April 27, 202 Task Force Response:

I was honored to serve as a Hearing Officer for the Supreme Court in disciplinary matters involving not only lawyers but document preparers and fiduciaries. That experience uniforms me that allowing non lawyers to own or participate in the ownership of an Arizona law firm will not serve the interests of consumers of legal services in Arizona.

An important function of the Supreme Court is to regulate lawyers. That is a tough job but is made manageable by lawyers being bound by ethical standards and rules. Enterprising investors and non-lawyers are not governed by the overriding concern of compliance with these standards and rules. Instead they are motivated by enterprise and profit. I can say that being an enterpriser myself. If an enterpriser gets caught cheating, she or he can just walk away from the "failed" enterprise. Lawyers, on the other hand, know with certainty that they face disbarment and shame. This is no small distinguishing factor.

I am opposed to the Task Force’s recommendation to eliminate Ethical Rule 5.4 to allow non-lawyer ownership of law firms for other good reasons mentioned by others. As described below, eliminating ER 5.4 will not increase access to justice, will cause damage to the legal profession generally, and will only financially benefit lawyers and non-lawyer investors to the detriment of the underserved.

On January 30, 2020, the Task Force released its Proposal. The first set of comments roundly disagreed with the Proposal, with a few exceptions, mostly from out-of-state interests. The Comments’ subject matter varied, some comments decried the negative effects the proposals would have on the legal system in general, others focused on the ethical clashes that would result from non-lawyer ownership of law firms, while others demanded answers to the question, “How does eliminating ER 5.4 increase access to justice?” On April 27, 2020, the Task Force issued its Response. The latter question was largely ignored in the Response. And for good reason: As Mr. Geoffrey Trachtenberg pointed out in his March 20, 2020 comment, “the “Access to Justice” mantra is being coopted as a Trojan Horse; it’s being used by private equity and hedge funds who desire to squeeze every last dollar out of the legal practice.”

As it relates to ER 5.4 the Response addresses “Access to Justice” only briefly and attempts to use the Covid-19 pandemic as leverage. Literally, other than hyperbole, there is no explanation for how eliminating ER 5.4 would increase access to justice.

Following is a summary of the Task Force’s comments regarding elimination of ER 5.4 and its relationship to “Access to Justice”, along with this authors response:

1. Innovative ways to conduct business which helped law firms through the pandemic would not have been possible without an “infusion” of new technology and emergency changes to existing court rules
a. Response: Yes, and this was all done without eliminating ER 5.4. It turns out attorneys, judges, and their wonderful staff can adopt new technologies, create innovative ways to conduct business, and respond to emergencies.

2. “The Task Force recommendations, while not foreseeing the pandemic, fulfill its charge to ignite similar innovation into the traditional services and to expand access to justice, not just for low income and indigent persons, but for working- and middle-class persons.”
a. Response: This is hyperbole. It doesn’t say how eliminating 5.4 would increase access to justice.

3. “The effects of the pandemic will severely increase the need for legal services”.
a. Response: How and why? Maybe the need for legal services will increase, maybe it won’t. But how does eliminating ER 5.4 increase access to legal services?

4. “These proposals will be increasingly relevant and necessary to ensure the public’s legal needs are met.”
a. Response: How?

5. “Moreover, the financial impact of the pandemic on some law firms may be severe. The ability to partner with other professionals to create innovative ways to deliver legal services in addition to the ability to attract capital may well help firms survive and thrive in what will likely become a new normal.”
a. Response: How does this relate to access to justice? Instead, it panders to attorneys and ignores reality: there are other, more reasonable, ways to gain access to capital and keep the legal profession alive during this time of crisis without eliminating ER 5.4.

6. “Adopting the changes would allow Arizona to expand access to justice while protecting the public, the very charge the Task Force was given.”
a. Response: How?

At the end of the day, no explanation is provided, because there is none. Because it is illogical to believe that adding a second layer of “professionals” (the non-lawyer owner) to a law firm, would result in an increase in access to justice. An explanation does not exist because “Access to Justice” by eliminating ER 5.4 is private equity’s Trojan Horse. It is the same reason non-doctor/dentist ownership of medical and dental practices has not increased access to dental or medical care. It only results in worse dental and medical care. We have seen this play out: dentists/doctors can only meet with you for 10 minutes because that is the only time allotted under their investors’ business model. The primary care physician walks in the office to say hi and tell you what the diagnosis is before he hurries out of the room b/c if he doesn’t fit in 120 patients in one day, the owners are going to decrease his compensation.

The only way to pay for the non-lawyer’s partnership interest is to increase profits. That does not translate to an increase in access to justice.

Unlike the consumer product business model of selling widgets, where prices can decrease as competition increases when more companies produce the widget, in the legal, medical, and dental context, the “widget” is the professional’s service. It is the dentist’s work on your crown, the doctor performing a surgery, or a lawyer trying your case for which the client pays. The cost of legal representation doesn’t decrease as the layers of ownership increase- the opposite is increased.

I am Frederick C. Berry, Jr. and proud to have State Bar of Arizona number 003244.
Yolanda Fox
Basic Member
Posts:237 Basic Member

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18 May 2020 12:32 PM
J. Robert Tolman
2173 E. Warner Road, Suite 101
Tempe, AZ 85284
Mobile: (602) 463-2437
Telephone: (480) 625-4501 ext 102
Facsimile: (480) 666-9333
[email protected]
www.rtolmanlaw.com

I oppose the elimination of ER 5.4 for a variety of reasons that have been adequately expressed and addressed by others. Essentially, my duty to my clients and my clients confidence in me should not be subject to outside influences. It is sacrosanct. Elimination of ER 5.4 will not serve to protect the rights of our citizens, and, of equlat if not greater significance, it will not promote the provision of legal services to the underserved in Arizona.

State Bar of Arizona #003864

Yolanda Fox
Basic Member
Posts:237 Basic Member

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18 May 2020 12:36 PM
Mark A. Ryan AZ Bar No. 034023
2200 E. Camelback Rd., Ste. 213
Phoenix, AZ 85016
phone: (602) 224-0005
email: [email protected]

I write in strong opposition to the petition to eliminate ER 5.4. The elimination of ER 5.4 will create an irreparable harm to the legal profession through the introduction of non-lawyers who are not subject to the scrutiny of the bar. The elimination of ER 5.4 will be disastrous as non-lawyer investors will seek returns on their investments much like a shareholder to a corporation. If this petition were to pass, any access to justice sought by the elimination of ER 5.4 would be detrimental to its purpose of helping the underserved. That is due to the non-lawyer investor’s desire to make profits over the service to the client. This petition should be rejected.


Yolanda Fox
Basic Member
Posts:237 Basic Member

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18 May 2020 01:27 PM
Patrick Mause Bar # 024269
Law Office of Patrick Mause, PLLC
290 North Meyer Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85701
520-342-0000 (phone)
520-342-0001 (fax)
www.PMauseLaw.com

I oppose the proposal to permit non-lawyer ownership of law firms. Permitting non-lawyers to own law firms will reduce accountability in legal proceedings; weaken the trust and confidence between lawyers, clients, and the courts; lead to poor outcomes for clients when profits become the driving force in law firms; and irreparably harm the practice of law. The thought of hedge funds owning law firms should send a chill down all our spines.
Yolanda Fox
Basic Member
Posts:237 Basic Member

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18 May 2020 01:30 PM
Amy Hernandez
Bar No. 022892
Dwyer Hernandez, P.C.
1670 E. River Road, Suite 270
Tucson, Arizona 85718
520-209-1855
[email protected]

I would like to comment on the above proposed rule change that I oppose it completely. I join in Geoff Trachtenberg and Tom Burnett’s comments.
Yolanda Fox
Basic Member
Posts:237 Basic Member

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18 May 2020 01:37 PM
Sean Phelan, Bar # 024508
Managing Partner
Jensen Phelan Law Firm, P.C.
711 Whipple Street
Prescott, Arizona 86301
928-778-2660 (phone)
928-778-1379 (fax)

As a practitioner in a small town, we are constantly aware of outside influences looking to change the nature of our community, including small town law practices. It is of utmost importance that law firm's be part of the community they practice within. Moreover, it is of utmost importance that lawyers practicing in small communities uphold all ethical obligations to their client, and in-turn the community. Allowing non-lawyers to own law firms will allow profit motives to take precedence over the needs of the community and the client.

Please keep our ethical rule as is and let the practice of law be the responsibility of lawyers.
Yolanda Fox
Basic Member
Posts:237 Basic Member

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18 May 2020 01:43 PM
Law Offices of Ted Updike, PLLC
Theodore R. Updike (07231)
1839 S. Alma School Road, Suite 205
Mesa AZ 85210
480-838-9000


I want to ELIMINATE ER 5.4
Jeffrey Marks
New Member
Posts:4 New Member

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18 May 2020 01:44 PM
Jeffrey A. Marks
4773 E Camp Lowell Dr,
Tucson, AZ 85712
Phone: (520) 327-5300

My name is Jeffrey A. Marks, SBN 005670. I have already submitted my strenuous objections to the proposed rule changes. However, I have though of a way in which legal services could be provided at a reduced rate to lower income people. After a law student graduates from an ABA accredited law school, that student be permitted to practice lower- level legal matters until that lawyer passes the bar exam and is admitted. That would give a minimum of five or so months where the not-yet-admitted lawyer has the inducement to practice law and get experience, if the services are limited to lower income people. With minimal rules to regulate such a practice, I think such a plan would be beneficial to everyone. That should eliminate the need for the nightmare inducing thought of non-lawyers providing legal services. Considering the number of recent graduates waiting to take the bar exam, there should be hundreds of law graduates that should happily agree to be part of this. Also, please let me again reiterate my strong objection to non-lawyers owning any interest in law practices. If allowed, it does not take a rocket scientist to see that virtually all the investment would be in high-profit personal injury practices, which would then result in a concerted race to the bottom.
Yolanda Fox
Basic Member
Posts:237 Basic Member

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18 May 2020 01:46 PM
Kel Vrana
Bar Number: 029017
Vrana Law Firm
1212 E. Baseline Rd. #108
Tempe, AZ 85287

There are much more successful and smarter lawyers than myself that will comment on this. However, by that same principle I cannot imagine telling a lay person that they are in good hands under the care of a non-lawyer for their legal matter. Even the most accomplished paralegals miss basic legal principles which a non-lawyer is not prepared to deal with. The only endorsement for the rule change I have heard is to give lawyers the benefit of selling their practice to a wider audience. This idea in and of itself is one founded in greed. This principle of greed seeks to overtake our industry with this rule change and there will be little that anyone can do about it. One needs to merely drive down the freeway to see the billboards littered with firms seeking to get business. The proposed rule change would see a litany of investors seeking to do just that with a focus solely on profit.

In my experience, those that cannot pass the bar do not make good employees. Were this measure to pass the over 30% of applicants that were unable to pass the bar consistently the last few years will likely go for the low hanging fruit of LLLP. This has the potential to be disastrous, especially if those peoples are not required to carry professional liability insurance.

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