Real estate lawyers fear "law related services" definition: defining "law related services" in Illinois' ethics rules could encourage UPL, pose malpractice risks, and cause other problems, real estate lawyers tell the Supreme Court.

Author:Gunnarsson, Helen W.

Would defining the term "law-related services" in the Rules of Professional Conduct present any problems for lawyers or their clients? The Illinois Real Estate Lawyers Association says yes.

It's the rule, not the concept

The definition is contained in proposed new RPC 5.7, which, in turn, is part of a comprehensive proposal for the revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct that has been pending before the Illinois Supreme Court since early 2004. (View the proposal by visiting http://www.state. Hearings/2007/Rules_Comm/091407.asp; see the feature article A Proposed Makeover for the Rules o f Professional Conduct in the March 2008 IBJ for more information.) The proposal results from the work of the ISBA/CBA Joint Committee on Ethics 2000 and the Supreme Court's own Committee on Professional Responsibility.

The court's rules committee invited comment and convened a hearing on the proposal on September 14, 2007. After receiving additional comments and recommendations directed toward RPC 1.15, RPC 1.8, and proposed new RPC 5.7, the rules committee scheduled and held another hearing, on October 24, 2008. Lawyers from IRELA appeared to present special commentary on the latter two rules proposals.

Proposed RPC 5.7 provides that the conduct of lawyers continues to be subject to the Rules of Professional Responsibility when lawyers are providing "lawrelated services." Though the IRELA lawyers testifying, without exception, affirmed their support of that concept, they took issue with the proposed rule's definition of that term: "services that might reasonably be performed in conjunction with and in substance are related to the provision of legal services, and that are not prohibited as unauthorized practice of law when provided by a nonlawyer." They also objected to the language of comment (9) to the proposed rule, which states in relevant part as follows:

Examples of law related services include providing title insurance, financial planning, accounting, trust services, real estate counseling, legislative lobbying, economic analysis, social work, psychological counseling, tax preparation, and patent, medical or environmental consulting.

The objectors expressed their principal objection to the definition as opening the door to the practice of law on the part of nonlawyers. Chicago lawyer William Anaya wrote as follows:

Non-lawyers will argue that because "law related services" are, by definition, not "actual" legal...

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