The bill would allow non-lawyers to own up to 49 percent of a firm.
Non-lawyers are banned from owning law firms by the American Bar Association’s Model Rule 5.4, and the issue was debated at last spring’s ABA meeting.
The bill in the General Assembly contains a caveat designed to make sure lawyers remember that their first duty is to their client, not to stockholders.
Stock certificates must contain language in at least 12-point type that no shareholder shall interfere with the exercise of professional judgment by licensed attorneys. The certificates must also note that if there is a conflict between duties to the court, the client and the shareholders, the court comes first, then the client and then the shareholders.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Fletcher L. Hartsell Jr., a Republican who represents Cabarrus and Iredell Counties.
- By SYLVIA ADCOCK, Staff Writer