A bill aimed at allowing external investment in US law firms was tabled this week in North Carolina.
Should it become law, the bill would potentially pave the way for Legal Services Act-style liberalisation in the US market.
The bill has been introduced by Senator Fletcher Hartsell, who is a lawyer. It is designed to allow, “non-attorney ownership of professional corporation law firms”.
The limit of ownership would be 49 per cent under Hartsell’s recommendations, leaving the majority of the corporation’s shares in lawyer hands.
Georgetown Law professor Mitt Regan admitted that Hartsell’s bill had, “caught everyone by surprise”, adding that were it to become law it could be problematic for larger law firms.
“The difficulty may be that even if North Carolina passes the bill, lawyers in a firm that has offices in other states would be in violation of state laws unless there was structural change,” Regan said.