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Opinion Number: 1990-04

Law students providing legal research services to lawyers and law firms

QUESTION:

A brochure has been presented by a group of law students who wish to advertise a research business. Their query concerns whether "legal research" constitutes the practice of law. ANSWER:

The Code of Alabama and case law in the State of Alabama define what acts constitute the practice of law. The Disciplinary Commission can neither expand nor interpret those statutes or case decisions and accordingly cannot address, in formal fashion, the question posed.

It is noted that the brochure advertising the services to be offered includes a disclaimer that states as follows:

"No research or services rendered by Legal Eagles Research constitutes a legal opinion. Our services are not provided by licensed attorneys and only constitutes a transmittal of information from Legal Eagles Research to licensed attorneys."

It is further noted that the services are offered to lawyers and law firms and not to the general public. As such, and within the limits described in the offering brochure, the Disciplinary Commission can discern no meaningful distinction between the services offered herein and those services provided by various non-lawyer employees of law firms. The individuals requesting this opinion are non-lawyers and are seeking employment as independent contractors. They do not seek employment from individuals in need of legal services but rather seek employment from licensed providers of legal services, i.e. lawyers and law firms.

Accordingly, and with the understanding that the Commission can only apply the law as promulgated by the Legislature or defined by the Courts of this State, it is the opinion of the Disciplinary Commission that the brochure and the services described therein are permissible and do not constitute the unauthorized practice of law.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

This opinion is not rendered pursuant to Rule 14 in that those requesting the opinion are not licensed members of the profession. Nonetheless. in an effort to provide clear guidance the Commission does offer its informal opinion as stated hereinabove. In addition, the Commission attaches hereto and makes a part hereof that portion of the Code of the State of Alabama that defines the practice of law.