March 28th, 2017

Jacoby & Meyers Goes Down Bigly

Jacoby & Meyers had an idea. If only they could get non-lawyers to put money into its firm for a share of the profits, they could fund expansion. The only itty, bitty problem with that is that it’s ethically impermissible to share legal fees with non-lawyers.

So it brought suit back in 2011, trying to claim its rights were violated. And worse yet, to me, tried to claim it was doing so on my behalf, when they wrote that suit was being brought:

“…on behalf of itself and all others authorized to practice law in the State of New York…”

Blech. Non-attorneys owning a share of law firms is an awful idea, and one that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals shot down last week. The firm tried to lawyer its way around the ethical prohibition by claiming it was a First Amendment violation of its right to freely associate. The problem, of course, is that the right to associate with a lawyer belongs to the client, not to the lawyer trying to finance business expansion.

As Scott Greenfield notes, it wasn’t always this way. It started, sort of, as the People’s Express of law firms:

When Jacoby & Meyers began, it was supposed to be the People’s law firm, solid lawyering at prices regular folks could afford. Some wags might argue that this was merely a marketing stance, as they wanted money as much as any other law firm. When they didn’t get it, they pivoted to a personal injury firm.

The firm having pivoted to personal injury, I’ll rehash what I’ve said before about non-lawyers owning any portion of a firm:  It is an invitation to ambulance chasing. The non-lawyers simply skirt the ethics rules to which they are not accountable, and impermissibly hustle business. The concepts of ownership, solicitation and marketing all become fused into one unaccountable mess.

And what will the lawyers say when the non-lawyers gets found chasing? They would no doubt profess shock (shock!) that such activities were going on under their roof.  “We’re so sorry!  We had no idea!!”

Let’s hope this miserable idea is finally put to bed, for the surest way to degrade the practice of law and diminish the residual respect we still have in some quarters is to introduce non-lawyers into the mix.



May 20th, 2011

Jacoby & Meyers Sues To Sell Themselves to Non-Lawyers (Lousy Idea)

Being “familiar” is not always good.

Two days ago Jacoby & Meyers brought suit to sell themselves. To non-lawyers. You can read about it at the WSJ Law Blog.

This is an awful idea. According to  Andrew Finkelstein, the managing partner of Jacoby & Meyers:

There is no legitimate rationale that exists to prevent nonlawyers from owning equity in law firms.

Yes, there are legitimate reasons. But having written about them just two months ago when North Carolina contemplated legislation along these lines, I don’t feel compelled to re-write the piece.  My reasons why this is such a poor idea are set forth here:

North Carolina to Allow Non-Lawyers to Buy Interest in Firms? (Lousy Idea)

But it’s also worth noting one particularly odious thing about the Complaint. It says they are suing:

“…on behalf of itself and all others authorized to practice law in the State of New York…”

Let’s be clear about this: Jacoby & Meyers, you do not speak for me.