FAMILY LAW ARTICLES
Accepting family law work as a new attorney can be very difficult and confusing. As you pair up with other firms and get clients, new attorneys must know California’s legal requirements and ethical rules. Thankfully, Frances Gutierrez, an associate with Hartley Lamas et al., shares some of her insights about these requirements as attorneys start their practice.
Learning the Ropes from Frances Gutierrez
Frances Gutierrez has been practicing law for nearly a decade. He provides family law services to clients with Hartley Lamas et al. in California and has been a firm member since 2017.
Below, Gutierrez shares the details of several professional responsibility rules and related tips that new attorneys need to be aware of as they start providing legal services in California. Failing to know and follow these specific rules can result in an inquiry from the State of California and might affect a lawyer’s ability to practice law in the future.
1. Avoid practicing with non-attorney companies.
In California, every law office must be run by an attorney. Essentially, if an attorney does not run the firm, you might be investigated by the State of California. Every law office must be owned and operated by a lawyer because lawyers are not permitted to share fees for legal cases with non-lawyers. These are often referred to as “anti-fee-splitting” rules.
Hartley Lamas et al. is a lawfully organized law firm under the management and direction of California-licensed attorneys.
However, suppose you work as a lawyer for a company California-licensed attorneys do not run. In that case, you might be going against established professional responsibility requirements.
2. Do not help others engage in the unauthorized practice of law.
When you work for a firm or other company that attorneys do not run, you might also run into a situation where you assist others in practicing law when they are not authorized. California lawyers, just like every other state in the United States, must be licensed in the State of California to practice law.
The unauthorized practice of law by someone who is not correctly licensed is illegal, and helping someone provide legal services when they are not licensed can also lead to ethical problems for you.
This type of situation comes up quite a bit in the family law area because there are many resources online regarding family law services. Some companies offer legal services that are not authorized under California law. These situations not only cause problems for any lawyer involved, but they can also negatively impact family law clients.
3. Find good mentors and follow their example.
Being part of a firm allows new attorneys to pair up with attorneys who provide good mentorship and learning opportunities. For example, the associates at Harley Lames et al. receive close supervision from more seasoned attorneys to provide top-notch services to clients. Having this type of resource and connection for new attorneys is invaluable.