Lawyering Tasks for Law Students

When law students intern in the Law Offices or clerk for other Illinois lawyers, their supervising lawyers delegate lawyering tasks to them. In performing their delegated tasks, law students are governed by the norms and ethics of the legal profession as proscribed by the Illinois Code of Professional Responsibility. This memorandum sets forth the norms and ethics in the form of guidelines under which law students (as well as all nonlawyers and lawyers) should operate when lawyering tasks are delegated to nonlawyers by lawyers. The rights and obligations of law students to whom lawyering tasks have been delegated under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 711 are not covered in this memorandum.

Guidelines

Illinois lawyers may delegate a variety of lawyering tasks to nonlawyers, including law students. For each such task the nonlawyers acquire the following obligations to which they must adhere:

  1. Nonlawyers must conform their behavior to the norms and ethics of the legal profession, as established by the Illinois Code of Professional Responsibility.
  2. Nonlawyers must have their supervising attorneys supervise all work delegated to them and the supervising attorneys must assume complete responsibility for it.
  3. Nonlawyers must never offer work to clients as their own product. Nonlawyers' work loses its identity and becomes the work of the supervising attorneys.
  4. Nonlawyers must disclose their status as nonlawyers when first making contact with clients, attorneys, or other persons involved in the legal matters assigned to them.
  5. Nonlawyers must maintain the secrets and confidences of both the supervising attorneys for whom they work and the clients with whom they come into contact.
  6. Nonlawyers must never engage in the unauthorized practice of law. Thus, e.g., they must never perform the professional functions of a lawyer such as conducting court trials, counseling clients about legal matters, or engaging in any activities which lawyers cannot delegate to nonlawyers, such as those listed below as impermissible.
  7. Nonlawyers must not participate in courtroom or administrative hearing proceedings unless participation is to request a continuance or to be seated at counsel's table; except nonlwayers may participate in administrative hearing proceedings if a statutory or regulatory exception permits it.

Permissible Tasks for Legal Assistants

Following is a selected list of lawyering tasks which may be delegated to nonlawyers pursuant to the above guidelines. If nonlawyers are unsure whether a task may be delegated, they should err on the side of caution, and not do the activity.

I. RESEARCH AND WRITING

Research

  1. Evaluate clients' claims, counter claims, cross claims, third party claims and defenses to claims
  2. Trace legislative history
  3. Review transcripts for appeal
  4. Analyze opponents briefs and other writings
    • identify errors
    • suggest corrections
  5. Analyze depositions
  6. Check citations
  7. Abstract briefs, memoranda, depositions, and other writings

Writing

  1. Briefs
  2. Memoranda
  3. Letters
  4. Pleadings
  5. Motions
  6. Interrogatories
  7. Requests for Discovery Documents or Admissions
  8. Deposition Question
  9. Responses to Discovery Requests
  10. Jury Instructions
  11. Contracts
  12. Patent Applications
  13. Property Documents
  14. Legislation
  15. Affidavits

II. PRE-TRIAL INVESTIGATION

  1. Take statements
  2. Gather documentation and evidence
  3. Photograph potential evidence
  4. Prepare exhibits for trial
  5. Attend depositions and take notes
  6. Search public records
  7. Interview witnesses

III. TRIAL BASED ACTIVITY

  1. Take notes at trial
  2. Arrange service of process
  3. Interview witnesses
  4. Prepare witnesses for trial
  5. Request continuances
  6. Sit at counsel's table, e.g., observe witnesses, take notes, and arrange exhibits

IV. CLIENT CENTERED ACTIVITY

  1. Assist clients with interview forms
  2. Interview clients
  3. Attend meetings between clients and supervising attorneys and take notes
  4. Be used as conduits for information between the client and the attorney (Nonlawyers must advise clients that any professional advice which they provide to the clients it that of their supervising attorney. Nonlawyers must not answer any clients' questions regarding such professional advice, if the answers would constitute professional advice.)

V. ATTORNEY/ASSISTANT ACTIVITY

In a conference with their supervising attorneys, nonlawyers may discuss any issues, regardless of their nature (e.g., nonlawyers may discuss law with their supervising attorneys.)

VI. OFFICE MANAGEMENT AND ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIVITIES

  1. Abstract case files
  2. Maintain office schedules
  3. Carry out service of process
  4. File notices, claims and other papers in court
  5. Locate witnesses
  6. Arrange attendance of witnesses

IMPERMISSIBLE TASKS FOR LEGAL ASSISTANTS

Following is a selected list of lawyering tasks which may not be done by nonlawyers. If nonlawyers are unsure whether a task can be delegated, they should err on the side of caution, and not do the activity.

I. RESEARCH AND WRITING

Nonlawyers may not submit any written material to anyone without prior supervision of the writing by their supervision attorneys. Any written materials which are signed by nonlawyers should clearly identify them as nonlwayers.

II. PRE-TRIAL INVESTIGATION

Nonlawyers may not participate in any pre-trial activities in which they use professional legal judgment, e.g., nonlawyers may not take depositions.

III. TRIAL BASED ACTIVITY

Nonlawyers may conduct no courtroom activities beyond requesting continuances, taking notes and sitting at counsel's table, e.g.,

  1. Nonlawyers may not present motions to a court.
  2. Nonlawyers may not conduct voir dire.
  3. Nonlawyers may not try cases.

IV. CLIENTS CENTERED ACTIVITY

Nonlawyers may not give professional advice to clients or counsel client about their legal matters, e.g.,

  1. Nonlawyers may not agree to undertake representation for clients, on behalf of their supervising attorneys, without their supervising attorneys' prior knowledge.
  2. Nonlwayers may not advise clients about the applicability of a statute for a situation.
  3. Nonlawyers may not advise clients about the effects of procedural rules relating to the clients' cases.
  4. Nonlawyers may not counsel clients concerning offers of settlement.
  5. Nonlawyers may not close real estate deals.
  6. Nonlawyers may not determine fee arrangements.

V. NEGOTIATIONS

As a general rule, nonlawyers should not engage in any negotiations concerning legal matters. However, ABA Opinion 85 permits nonlawyers to negotiate insurance claims provided that Nonlawyers report the proposed settlements to their supervising attorneys for final decision.

EXHIBIT E
Copyright C 1989
By Gary S. Laser