Elevate ok'd by top Arizona court to offer legal services through firm unit

A dust storm surrounds high rise buildings in Phoenix, Arizona August 18, 2011. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
  • License from the Arizona Supreme Court brings together Elevate and ElevateNext
  • Arizona was the first state to allow non-lawyers ownership stake in law firms

(Reuters) - Elevate Services Inc has gained approval in Arizona to provide legal services through a law firm unit, making Elevate one of the bigger companies to receive a license under a new business structure following changes to law firm ownership rules in the state.

Elevate, which bills itself as a "law company" serving legal department and law firm customers, said on Thursday the license from the Arizona Supreme Court unifies Elevate and its affiliated law firm.

An order on the court's website shows it approved unit ElevateNext US LLC as an alternative business structure (ABS) on Nov. 30.

Law firm ElevateNext has been affiliated with the company since the firm's 2018 founding but has until now been a separate company.

Nicole Auerbach, who leads ElevateNext services, said the move allows the unified entity to directly handle all of its work for customers and provide "lawyer-led" capabilities that pair with Elevate's technology and consulting services.

Elevate said it is now the first U.S. company not owned by a lawyer to have an "integrated" law firm.

Companies not owned by lawyers typically can't practice law in the U.S. due to ethics rules that bar "nonlawyers" from holding economic interest in law firms or sharing fees with lawyers.

Arizona was the first state to eliminate the prohibition, clearing the way in August 2020 for co-ownership of businesses that offer legal services through the ABS arrangement requiring court approval.

A unit of LegalZoom.com Inc, an online consumer-facing legal services company, is among the past approvals, with the majority so far being smaller entities. The court has authorized at least 15 entities since January 2021.

Regulatory changes are being considered in other states. Utah created a regulatory "sandbox" in 2020 to allow for experimentation with new legal services business models for a seven-year period.

Auerbach, who co-founded ElevateNext with Patrick Lamb, said the firm handles matters including large volumes of subpoenas, litigation alongside its own e-discovery group, compliance and privacy work.

Liam Brown, chairman and CEO of Elevate, said in a statement Thursday that companies such as Elevate "are different from and not in competition with traditional law firms, which are well-adapted for the 'advice of law' market."

Read More:

Arizona clears way for non-attorney law firm co-ownership in bid to boost access

LegalZoom gets Arizona approval for alternative legal biz structure

Utah legal innovation 'sandbox' expands to add AI contracts venture LawGeex, others

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as the business of law, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Reach her at sara.merken@thomsonreuters.com