Hi, it’s Billie Tarascio from Modern Law Practice. A few people have been asking me, what are you doing? Are you even allowed to offer counseling through your law firm? I think you’re going to run into some ethics issues. What about confidentiality? What about fee splitting? What about all of the ethics rules that prevent lawyers from doing innovative things?
And those are great questions.
Are you allowed to offer non-lawyer services through your law firm?
Now this is something that every single one of us lawyers who’ve done alternative things has had to grapple with for a lot of years. It started with my doc prep company, which started out as a tech company. And Erin Levine had to had to face this when she was setting up Hello Divorce. When you offer services that are not typical lawyer services, you have to really think about the ethics rules.
And the answer is you really can’t do it through your law firm. You really need to set up a new company in Arizona, that’s rule 5.7. So you’re going to want to look up your ethics rule 5.7, which is on related services.
And what does this mean? Well, if you offer any services through your law firm, then you’re subject to the rules of professional conduct, all of them. And, and there could be conflicts of interest. So for instance, if somebody is talking to a counselor and disclosing things that they don’t want the lawyer to know, but the lawyer has access to those records, that could be an issue. It could give rise to a conflict of interest that would then require you to withdraw.
There’s also the issue of fee splitting. You know, you’re not allowed to fee split, which means if you’re billing insurance company and taking copays, you might have issues with fee splitting.
The answer is to open up a separate company and then have the proper waivers back and forth. You need to explain to your clients, if they use your law-related services, what the advantages and disadvantages are the fact that you might make a profit. The fact that, how much you’re charging should be compared to how much they would get charged in the regular market. You can do it. And I’ve been doing it since 2013 through this separate company, not through counseling services, but with legal doc prep services with tech and online form services. And now with counseling services.
So the answer is, yes, you can do it. What does it mean? It means another tax return. It means, another set of books. It means a whole other company that has to be managed the same way your law firm does.
It’s not hard. It’s not impossible. You can do it, but you need to do your research before you set up any sort of law related service, whether it be title companies, you know, whatever it is that you’re offering from counseling to document preparation, to, divorce coaching, any sort of law related services, or even non law related services really can’t go through your law firm.
So that’s the short and easy answer. If you have specific questions, go ahead and leave them for me in the comments, do not forget to subscribe. Thanks and have a great week.