Can a lawyer be held responsible for a nonlawyer's conduct?

When you retain an attorney to assist you with a legal matter in Florida, your expectation likely is that you will work with them and only them. Yet for all of their knowledge of the fields in which they practice, attorneys may lack an understanding of certain specialties that may be needed in order to adequately represent you. Thus, your attorney may find it necessary to bring in others who are not lawyers to participate in preparing your case. Even though these professionals may not be attorneys, their actions can impact the outcome of your case. You should know, then, what responsibilities your attorney assumes when involving nonlawyers in your representation. 

While technically the term "nonlawyer" refers to anyone who is not a lawyer, the word (used in this context) typically refers to professionals such as: 

  • Insurance claim adjusters
  • Social workers
  • Accountants
  • Representatives of government agencies or financial institutions

According to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct created by the American Bar Association, whenever lawyer employs or retains the services of a nonlawyer to assist in your case, that attorney assumes responsibility to ensure that said nonlawyer operates with the same professional integrity that is expected from them. If a nonlawyer's conduct prejudices or hinders your representation, then your attorney shares in the liability if it is proven that they ordered or consented to the conduct in question. That liability can be extended even in cases where the attorney may have not had a hand in influencing it if you can show that they knew of the nonlawyer's unethical conduct yet did nothing to stop it. 

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