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PROVISIONAL ORDER NO. 18, 454 A.2d 1222 (R.I. 1983)454 A.2d 1222

PROVISIONAL ORDER NO. 18, 454 A.2d 1222 (R.I. 1983)
454 A.2d 1222
Supreme Court of Rhode Island.
February 1, 1983.


[2] These guidelines shall apply to the use of legal assistants
by members of the Rhode Island Bar Association. A legal assistant
is one who under the supervision of a lawyer, shall apply
knowledge of law and legal procedures in rendering direct
assistance to lawyers, clients and courts; design, develop and
modify procedures, techniques, services and processes; prepare
and interpret legal documents; detail procedures for practicing
in certain fields of law; research, select, assess, compile and
use information from the law library and other references; and
analyze and handle procedural problems that involve independent
decisions. More specifically, a Legal Assistant is one who
engages in the functions set forth in Guideline II. Nothing
contained in these guidelines shall be construed as a
determination of the competence of any person performing the
function of a legal assistant, or as conferring status upon any
such person serving as a legal assistant.

[3]                           GUIDELINE I

[4] A lawyer shall not permit a legal assistant to engage in the
unauthorized> <practice> <of> <law>. Pursuant to Canon 3 of the Rhode
Island Supreme Court Code of Professional Responsibility, the
lawyer shares in the ultimate accountability for a violation of
this guideline. The legal assistant remains individually
accountable for engaging in the <unauthorized> <practice> <of> <law>.

[5]                          GUIDELINE II

[6] A legal assistant may perform the following functions,
together with other related duties, to assist lawyers in their
representation of clients: attend client conferences; correspond
with and obtain information from clients; draft legal documents;
assist at closings and similar meetings between parties and
lawyers; witness execution of <documents>; <prepare transmittal
letters; maintain estate/guardianship trust accounts; transfer
securities and other assets; assist in the day-to-day
administration of trusts and estates; index and organize
documents; conduct research; check citations in briefs and
memoranda; draft interrogatories and answers thereto, deposition
notices and requests for production; prepare summaries of
depositions and trial transcripts; interview witnesses; obtain
records from doctors, hospitals, police departments, other
agencies and institutions; and obtain information from courts.
Legal documents, including but not limited to, contracts deeds,
leases, mortgages, wills, trusts, probate forms, pleadings,
pension plans and tax returns, shall be reviewed by a lawyer
before being submitted to a client or another party.

[7] In addition, except where otherwise prohibited by statute,
court rule or decision,
Page 1223
administrative rule or regulation, or by
the Code of Professional Responsibility, a lawyer may permit a
legal assistant to perform specific services in representation of
a client. Thus, a legal assistant may represent clients before
administrative agencies or courts where such representation is
permitted by statute or agency or court rules.

[8] Notwithstanding any other part of this Guideline,

    1) Services requiring the exercise of independent
        professional legal judgment shall be performed
        by lawyers and shall not be performed by legal

    2) Legal assistants shall work under the direction
        and supervision of a lawyer, who shall be
        ultimately responsible for services and duties
        performed by legal assistants.

    3) The lawyer maintains direct responsibility for
        all aspects of the lawyer-client relationship,
        including responsibility for all actions taken
        by and errors of omission by the legal

[9]                          GUIDELINE III

[10] A lawyer shall direct a legal assistant to avoid any conduct
which if engaged in by a lawyer would violate the Code of
Professional Responsibility. In particular, the lawyer shall
instruct the legal assistant regarding the confidential nature of
the attorney/client relationship, and shall direct the legal
assistant to refrain from disclosing any confidential information
obtained from a client or in connection with representation of a

[11]                          GUIDELINE IV

[12] A lawyer shall direct a legal assistant to disclose that he
or she is not a lawyer at the outset in contacts with clients,
courts, administrative agencies, attorneys, or, when acting in a
professional capacity, the public.

[13]                           GUIDELINE V

[14] A lawyer may permit a legal assistant to sign correspondence
relating to the legal assistant's work, provided the legal
assistant's non-lawyer status is clear and the contents of the
letter do not constitute legal advice. Correspondence containing
substantive instructions or legal advice to a client shall be
signed by an attorney.

[15]                          GUIDELINE VI

[16] Except where permitted by statute, court rule or decision, a
lawyer shall not permit a legal assistant to appear in court as a
legal advocate on behalf of a client. Nothing in this Guideline
shall be construed to bar or limit a legal assistant's right or
obligation to appear in any forum as a witness on behalf of a

[17]                          GUIDELINE VII

[18] A lawyer may permit a legal assistant to use a business card,
with the employer's name indicated, provided the card is approved
by the employer and the legal assistant's non-lawyer status is
clearly indicated.

[19]                         GUIDELINE VIII

[20] A lawyer shall not form a partnership with a legal assistant
if any part of the partnership's activity involves the practice
of law.

[21]                          GUIDELINE IX

[22] Compensation of legal assistants shall not be in the manner
of sharing legal fees, nor shall the legal assistant receive any
remuneration for referring legal matters to a lawyer.

[23]                           GUIDELINE X

[24] A lawyer shall not use or employ as a legal assistant any
attorney who has been suspended or disbarred pursuant to an order
of this court, or an attorney who has resigned in this or any
other jurisdiction for reasons related to a breach of ethical

[25] Entered as an order of this court this 1st day of February,
Page 1224

[26] /s/ Joseph A. Bevilacqua  
                           Chief Justice

[27] /s/ Thomas F. Kelleher  
                           Associate Justice

[28] /s/ Joseph R. Weisberger  
                           Associate Justice

[29] /s/ Donald F. Shea  
                           Associate Justice

Inside PROVISIONAL ORDER NO. 18, 454 A.2d 1222 (R.I. 1983)454 A.2d 1222