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Massachusetts law about lawyers

A compilation of laws, cases, and web sources on admission to the bar, practice of law, and attorney discipline in Massachusetts.

Table of Contents


Bar exam information, Board of Bar Examiners

Applying for admission on motion, Supreme Judicial Court for the County of Suffolk

Out of state counsel: Pro hac vice procedures, Mass. Appeals Court

Mandatory online registration for attorneys, Board of Bar Overseers, effective September 1, 2016

Rules Pertaining to Bar Admission:


Mitchell v. Board of Bar Examiners, 452 Mass. 582 (2008)
A graduate of a wholly-online law school (which was thus unqualified for ABA accreditation) could sit for the Massachusetts bar exam.

Practice of law


MGL c.221, §§ 41, s.46A-46C. Authorized and unauthorized practice of law


Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct, SJC Rule 3:07
Rules governing the practice of law in Massachusetts

Practicing with Professionalism Course for New Lawyers, SJC Rule 3:16
Requires all newly-admitted lawyers to complete a day-long program on professionalism. See Professionalism Course for New Lawyers.


In the Matter of Bott, 462 Mass. 430 (2012) 
"Although mediation does not in all circumstances constitute the practice of law, an attorney who has resigned from the practice of law while the subject of disciplinary investigation ... or who has been disbarred or suspended from the practice of law... may be prohibited from serving as a mediator when to do so would be perceived by the public as an extension of the attorney's practice of law, or when the conduct if the mediation is so closely related to the practice of law as to constitute legal work within the meaning of S.J.C. Rule 4:01, § 17 (7)"

Deputy Chief Counsel for the Public Defender Division of CPCS v. Acting First Justice of Lowell District Court, 477 Mass. 178 (2017)
"This court concluded that under the plain language of G. L. c. 211D, § 5, which is reinforced by S.J.C. Rule 3:10, § 5, the Committee for Public Counsel Services has sole authority to assign counsel to indigent criminal defendants, including those in a drug court session in District Court."

Ferman v. Sturgis Cleaners, Inc., 481 Mass. 488 (2019)
“A plaintiff prevails for purposes of an award of attorneys’ fees under the Wage Act when his or her suit … [is] a necessary and important factor in causing the defendant to provide a material portion of the relief demanded in the plaintiff’s complaint.”

Real Estate Bar Association for Massachusetts v. National Real Estate Information Services, 459 Mass. 512 (2011)
The "closing or settlement of real property conveyances requires not only the presence but the substantive participation of an attorney on behalf of the mortgage lender, and that certain services connected with real property conveyances constituted the practice of law in Massachusetts." Outlines what constitutes unauthorized practice of law in real estate transactions.

Web sources 

Board of Bar Overseers
"The Board of Bar Overseers was established by the Supreme Judicial Court in 1974 as an independent administrative body to investigate and evaluate complaints against attorneys." They have over 80 articles on their site about ethical issues for lawyers. This is the place to start research on an ethical issue.

DOI Bulletin 2007-15: Written Notice to Claimants of Payment of Claims in Third Party Settlements
Insurance companies are directed to notify clients when payment of settlement of $5000 or more has been made to the client's attorney.

E-mail and attorney-client confidentiality, Mass. Bar Association ethics opinion 00-01
"A lawyer's use of unencrypted Internet e-mail to engage in confidential communications with his or her client does not violate Massachusetts Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6(a) in usual circumstances. Legal and technical hurdles to the interception of Internet e-mail give rise to a reasonable expectation on the part of lawyer and client that such communications will remain private. The lawyer must be careful, however, to ensure that confidential messages are not sent to e-mail addresses that are reasonably accessible to persons other than the client, and to avoid using unencrypted Internet e-mail in contravention of the client's express instructions."

Ethical withdrawal from representation: Massachusetts, National Law Review, January 2015. 
Provides an overview of the applicable rules, grounds for withdrawal, and manner of withdrawal.

The ethics of charging and collecting fees, Board of Bar Overseers, 2015

Featured practice tips from the Superior Court bench, MCLE
A "series of short 10-minute video briefings offering practical and sage advice from more than forty active and alumni members of the Massachusetts Superior Court."

Mass. Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics Opinions
Opinions published from 1973 to 2017.

Massachusetts IOLTA
Includes information and guidelines for both attorneys and financial institutions

Metadata: What is it, and what are my ethical duties?,, 2009
Metadata is the information you don't see when you open a document, but is retained and can be viewed. Includes previous versions, comments, authors, and more. This article discusses the dangers of metadata in digital files, the ethical responsibilities for attorneys both in their own documents and in viewing documents sent by others, and how to avoid metadata issues.

Practicing with professionalism resource materials, MCLE, 2015

Print sources

Conflicts of interest in the practice of law: Causes and cures, Banks and Jordan, 2015 

Ethical lawyering in Massachusetts, MCLE, 2021   

Hanging your shingle, MCLE, 2020 

The lawyer’s guide to buying, selling, merging and closing a law practice, ABA, 2008 

Limited Assistance Representation (LAR)

Limited assistance representation, Mass. Court System
Massachusetts courts may allow attorneys to assist self-represented litigants with selected documents or appearances without taking on full representation. Includes links to information for each court department.

Print sources

Building your practice with limited assistance representation, MCLE, 2013

Choosing, hiring, and working with a lawyer

Finding a lawyer
Provides links to information on choosing a lawyer, lawyer referral, legal aid, and limited assistance representation sources. This page also includes links to sources for finding lawyers in other states or countries.

Working with a lawyer 
Provides information on paying a lawyer, confidentiality and more.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
The Massachusetts Trial Court offers court-connected ADR as an alternative to litigation in every Trial Court Department. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a generic term used to describe certain processes in which an impartial third person assists parties in settling a case without the need for trial.

Complaints and attorney discipline

Bar discipline: SJC Rule 4:01
Rules governing attorney discipline

Clients' Security Board of the SJC
"Board members manage and distribute the monies in the Fund to members of the public who have sustained a financial loss caused by the dishonest conduct of a member of the bar acting as an attorney or a fiduciary." Site includes information on filing a claim, including forms, as well as their rules and annual report.

Filing a complaint against an attorney
Explains the process of pursuing an ethical complaint against an attorney regarding professional conduct. They also attempt assist in resolving attorney-client disputes.

Legal Fee Arbitration Board, Mass. Bar Association
The Massachusetts Bar Association Legal Fee Arbitration Board (FAB) "exists primarily to help resolve legal fee disputes between attorneys and between attorneys and their clients."


Ellis v. Dept. of Industrial Accidents, 463 Mass. 541 (2012)
"G. L. c. 152, § 7C, which authorizes the senior judge of the Department of Industrial Accidents (department) to discipline an attorney by permanently or temporarily suspending the attorney's right to  practice before the department, violates art. 30 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, in that the statute infringes on a core judicial function, i.e., the power to admit and remove officers of the court, and to regulate their professional conduct."

Print sources

Legal malpractice, Thomson West

Massachusetts bar discipline : history, practice and procedure.  Board of Bar Overseers of the Supreme Judicial Court, 2018.

Professional malpractice, Mass. Practice v.51, Part II, Legal Malpractice



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


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Last updated: June 30, 2021