Access to Legal Services > Questions & Answers
Questions & Answers
Frequently asked questions and answers about the ten recommendations made in 2019 by the Arizona Supreme Court’s Task Force on the Delivery of Legal Services, aimed at improving the delivery of legal services in Arizona
Why did Arizona need a Task Force and recommendations for changes?
Surveys in Arizona and nationally show that lawyers are not able to meet the public’s need for access to quality, affordable legal services. The number of self-represented litigants has increased for decades, particularly in limited jurisdiction courts, family court matters, and in rural areas.  But nonlawyers could not manage legal representations or control the lawyers' independent professional judgment.
The Task Force recommended eliminating Rule 5.4. What does this allow?
Nonlawyers would be able to partner with lawyers. Nonlawyers could own, have an economic interest in, manage, or make decisions in, an Alternative Business Structure that provides legal services. Lawyers would be able to split fees.
What is an Alternative Business Structure (ABS)?
An ABS is an entity that provides legal services and has nonlawyer ownership, managers, or decision makers in the business. Nonlawyers could have economic ownership (an equity stake) in the business.
Can an ABS be composed of all nonlawyers?
No. At least one lawyer licensed to practice law in Arizona has to be part of the ABS. Every ABS must have a lawyer serving as a legal compliance attorney who must ensure that the ABS complies with requirements, including policies and procedures to prevent nonlawyers in the business from interfering with lawyers’ ethical duties to clients.
Can a disbarred lawyer or a person who has been refused admission due to the character and fitness process own or be a partner in an ABS?
No.
How will an ABS be approved?
The Supreme Court will establish an ABS review committee, like the current Character and Fitness committee, to receive and review applications. The committee will recommend approval or denial of the application to the Supreme Court. The regulation structure will include strict rules for compliance and will protect lawyer independence.
How will complaints against an ABS be handled?
Complaints will be taken, investigated and prosecuted by the State Bar of Arizona in the same manner as a complaint against an attorney. Each ABS will pay an annual registration fee which will include monies to be paid into the Client Protection Fund.
What are the advantages of allowing for the formation of ABS’s?
  • It will allow for greater technological innovations in the delivery of legal services to the public.
  • It will provide additional capital to be infused in legal firms.
  • It will allow firms to attract the best and brightest nonlawyer partners (as they desire equity in a firm just as lawyers want to be firm partners).
  • It will allow for “one stop shops” to be able to provide legal and non-legal services to a client.
Does the public support the proposal to allow nonlawyers to partner in or own a law firm?
Yes. A poll of Arizona voters and non-voters across ages and political preferences showed 62.3% support for the proposal.
What is a Limited Legal Services Provider (LLLP)?
An LLLP is a nonlawyer who by way of education and experience is licensed to provide legal services in limited practice areas. This is like a nurse practitioner in the medical field.
Is there any experience with a nonlawyer performing legal services?
Yes. Arizona’s Supreme Court Rule 31 currently includes 31 exemptions that allow nonlawyers to practice law in limited situations.

Arizona created the Certified Legal Document Preparer program 15 years ago to authorize nonlawyers to prepare court documents for filing in Arizona’s courts. Currently there are 700 CLDPs. Individuals must pass a competency test to be certified to perform this service and their certification is regulated by the Supreme Court.

In 1962 in response to an Arizona Supreme Court case saying only lawyers could convey real estate in Arizona, real estate brokers brought an initiative asking voters to modify the constitution (Art. XXVI) to allow nonlawyer agents to practice real estate law by completing and modifying contracts and advising clients on real estate transactions. The Arizona State Bar opposed this initiative and the measure passed with nearly 80% of the vote. See the arguments and vote total here.
Will LLLPs be tested?
Yes. An LLLP will need to pass both a character and fitness review and pass a substantive law test covering the areas of practice the LLLP is being certified to perform.
What are the areas in which an LLLP might become certified?
  • Family Law
  • Civil practice in Limited Jurisdiction courts (including law suits under $10,000, landlord/tenant matters, debt cases).
  • Criminal matters in limited jurisdiction courts not involving loss of liberty.
  • Administrative hearings.
Does the public support this proposal?
Yes. An overwhelming 80.3% of the public supported the proposal to certify LLLPs.
What other recommendations from the task force are being implemented?
  • Two programs to assist survivors of domestic violence are being piloted. One will be implemented by the University of Arizona law school, the other by the Arizona Bar Foundation. Each program will provide trained advocates to assist domestic violence survivors in court.
  • Rules are proposed to allow a law school graduate to practice under the supervision of an attorney, while they await the results of their bar examine and Character and Fitness review. See R-20-0007.
  • Clarification to the current Legal Document Program (LDP) will be made.
  • Changes to amend lawyer ethical rules related to advertising in accord with American Bar Association changes to the model rules on the topic have been proposed in a Rule Petition. See R-20-0030.
  • Additional education for lawyers regarding the use of the unbundled legal services rules is planned.
  • Exploration of expanding the number of courts using staff to assist litigants in navigating the process are being considered.
  • The AZCourtHelp.org website now includes information about the different types of legal representation, including unbundled legal services. Additional ways to educate about and promote the offering and use of unbundled legal services will continue to be explored.
Are others considering similar changes to what’s being proposed in Arizona?
Yes. Innovations in how legal services are delivered and regulated is a spreading national discussion. The Utah Supreme Court has already adopted their Task Force recommendations to experiment with alternatives to Rule 5.4. California; New Mexico; Florida; Cook County, Ill.; and Connecticut are all exploring the issue. The Conference of Chief Justices passed a resolution calling on states to explore innovation in regulation and service delivery. The American Bar Association passed Resolution 115 at their February 2020 meeting to encourage the same.
              

The District of Columbia has permitted nonlawyer partners in law firms since 1985. DC lawyers in such firms abide by their ethical obligations – in spite of having nonlawyer partners.

The Law Society of England and Wales, as well as the Law Society of New South Wales in Australia have allowed nonlawyer ownership/investment in law firms for years and have not experienced significant complaints about nonlawyers interfering with lawyers’ independent professional judgment in representing clients, nor have they seen lawyers forced out of the profession due to additional investment in some ABS entities.

Is there any harm in leaving things the way they are?
Yes. Problems occur when litigants can’t understand the courts or can’t afford to pay for help with their legal needs. Completing the wrong paperwork or completing paperwork incorrectly wastes the litigants’ and the courts’ time. Litigants can become frustrated and give up, denying justice and solutions that the courts were created to address. The public can find legal forms and information online which, when left unregulated, leaves the public open to fraud and abuse. A majority of the public cannot afford the average hourly fee for attorney services. Alternative providers who are licensed or certified and regulated can fill this service gap that will otherwise continue to widen.

The current Ethical Rules unreasonably restrict a lawyer’s ability to utilize technologies that could provide accurate information to the public about the availability of legal services.


The current Ethical Rules unreasonably restrict lawyers’ ability to partner with other professionals to provide clients with practical collaborative services.

The current Ethical Rules are outdated – they were adopted before there were cell phones and the internet.  The way consumers find lawyers has changed since 1985, as have the clients’ needs.  Now consumers expect to be provided services efficiently – including services from a team of professionals – and online.  The Rules are overly restrictive in prohibiting fee sharing with nonlawyers or partnering with other professionals, when the remaining Rules on maintaining confidentiality, avoiding conflicts of interest, and providing competent legal representation will continue to protect clients. 

Where can I learn more?
See the Task Force on the Delivery of Legal Services Report and Recommendations online at https://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/0/aoc/pdf/LSTFReportRecommendationsRED10042019.pdf.
See the Access to Legal Services webpage online at https://www.azcourts.gov/accesstolegalservices/.

You can view proposals and comment on them at the following sites online:
Court Rules Forum: https://www.azcourts.gov/Rules-Forum
Arizona Code of Judicial Administration Forum: https://www.azcourts.gov/ACJA-Forum