Justices amend guidelines for nonlawyer assistants

Independent nonlawyer assistants will no longer be permitted to establish direct relationships with clients to provide legal services, the Indiana Supreme Court has ordered.

Amendments made to Guideline 9.1 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct took immediate effect upon a Wednesday order regarding the use of nonlawyer assistants, subject to the provisions of Rule 5.3. Under the amended guideline, nonlawyer assistants shall only be allowed to perform services under the direct supervision of a lawyer authorized to practice in Indiana. They may no longer do so in the employ of the lawyer or the lawyer’s employer.

Likewise, nonlawyer assistants who are not employed by a specific firm or by specific lawyers are prohibited from establishing a direct relationship with a client to provide legal services, the order states.

Lawyers will remain responsible for all the professional actions of a nonlawyer assistant performing services at the lawyer’s direction and should take reasonable measures to ensure that the non-lawyer assistant’s conduct is consistent with the lawyer’s obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct.

All justices concurred with the order signed by Chief Justice Loretta Rush.

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