Should alternative dispute resolution service companies be allowed to operate free of attorney ethics rules? Consider the following…

ADR…

In short, alternate dispute resolution (“ADR”) refers to any means of resolving a dispute other than litigation. Common forms of ADR include arbitration and mediation. In certain cases, ADR may be faster and less costly than litigation. A number of commercial companies offer ADR services.

Attorney ethics…

Three New Jersey attorney ethics committees concluded that one ADR service company’s activities rise to the level of legal services and, therefore, the company must abide by the Rules of Professional Conduct (“RPC”) governing New Jersey attorneys—including, those regarding the use of trade names and the requirement to maintain trust accounts. The company acknowledged that it has lawyers on staff, but argued that the RPC should not apply because the company does not provide “traditional” legal services. The committees disagreed. The committees noted that the company touts the legal acumen and skills of its lawyers and retired judges and, accordingly, clients who retain a lawyer or retired judge associated with the company to render ADR services expect them to abide by ethical standards mandated by the RPC. This month, the New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether the ADR company in question should be allowed to operate free of the RPC.

Conclusion…

Our state Supreme Court decision should be interesting and important. Please feel free to contact me for more information about ADR or the anticipated ruling.