Former Rules

Former Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 5.3--Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants

This Rule governed the practice of law in the District of Columbia from January 1, 1991, through January 31, 2007. As of February 1, 2007, the Amended Rules took effect.

With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer:
   (a) A partner in a law firm shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer;
   (b) A lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; and
   (c) A lawyer shall be responsible for conduct of such a person that would be a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer if:
     (1) The lawyer requests or, with the knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or
     (2) The lawyer has direct supervisory authority over the person, or is a partner in the law firm in which the person is employed, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.


   [1] Lawyers generally employ assistants in their practice, including secretaries, investigators, law student interns, and paraprofessionals. Such assistants, whether employees or independent contractors, act for the lawyer in rendition of the lawyer’s professional services. A lawyer should give such assistants appropriate instruction and supervision concerning the ethical aspects of their employment, particularly regarding the obligation not to disclose information relating to representation of the client, and should be responsible for their work product. The measures employed in supervising should take account of the fact that they do not have legal training and are not subject to professional discipline.
   [2] Just as lawyers in private practice may direct the conduct of investigators who may be independent contractors, prosecutors and other government lawyers may effectively direct the conduct of police or other governmental investigative personnel, even though they may not have, strictly speaking, formal authority to order actions by such personnel, who report to the chief of police or the head of another enforcement agency. Such prosecutors or other government lawyers have a responsibility with respect to police or investigative personnel, whose conduct they effectively direct, equivalent to that of private lawyers with respect to investigators whom they retain. See also Comments [3], [4], and [5] to Rule 5.1, in particular, the concept of what constitutes direct supervisory authority, and the significance of holding certain positions in a firm. Comments [3], [4], and [5] of Rule 5.1 apply as well to Rule 5.3.