Informal Opinion Number: 2022-06

Adoption Date: 2022

Rules: 4-5.4; 4-1.0
Law Firms and Associations
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Professional Independence of a Lawyer
Subject: Professional Independence of Lawyer
Summary: partnership with nonlawyer prohibited

May Attorney A, Attorney B, and Attorney C form a law firm with Physician as a partner?

Answer: No. Rule 4-5.4(b) prohibits a lawyer from forming a “partnership with a nonlawyer if any of the activities of the partnership consist of the practice of law.” It is the informal advisory opinion of this Office that the term “partnership” as used in Rule 4-5.4(b) which would include any kind of “firm” or “law firm” as defined by Rule 4-1.0(c), to be “a lawyer or lawyers in a law partnership, professional corporation, sole proprietorship or other association authorized to practice law; or lawyers employed in a legal services organization or the legal department of a corporation or other organization.” Further, Rule 4-5.4(d) prohibits a lawyer from practicing with, forming a professional corporation, or other association authorized to practice law for a profit if there is a nonlawyer owner, corporate director, or office with a similar responsibility, or a nonlawyer can control the professional judgment of the lawyer. However, Physician may be a nonlawyer employee of a law firm owned by Attorney A, Attorney B, and Attorney C. 

Informal Opinions are ethics advisory opinions issued by the Office of Legal Ethics Counsel to members of the Bar about Rule 4 (Rules of Professional Conduct), Rule 5 (Complaints and Proceedings Thereon), and Rule 6 (Fees to Practice Law) pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.30(c). Written summaries of select Informal Opinions are published for informational purposes as determined by the Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court of Missouri pursuant to Rule 5.30(c). Informal opinion summaries are advisory in nature and are not binding. These opinions are published as an educational service and do not constitute legal advice.

To request an Informal Opinion, please visit: lawyers/requesting-an-informal-advisory-opinion/.

© Copyright 2023