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A Debate: Should Lawyers Be Licensed?

Over at Point of Law, Jonathan Wilson kicks off this debate with Larry Ribstein over whether lawyers should be licensed.  (fortunately for Stanford dean, Kathleen Sullivan, this debate is theoretical because she passed the California Bar the second time around).

Wilson argues that lawyers should be licensed.   First, he believes that a free market, deregulated solution would not work for legal services, because choosing an attorney involves some expertise that lawyers do not have.  My own concern in a fully deregulated system is whether the bars will change lawyer advertising rules to enable lawyers to compete with other providers or whether lawyers will be subject to restrictions that would handicap them in a deregulated system.   For example, most bars prohibit lawyers from soliciting clients after an accident; would this same prohibition apply to non-lawyer representatives?  Or lawyers cannot say that they are "experts" in a field without taking a certification test.  But could a non-lawyer who's informally helped friends in immigration matters hold himself out as an "immigration specialist."  If that's the case, then the problem of inability to assess legal services in a deregulated environment would be even worse than Wilson describes.

Wilson's other point is that if you think the legal system is bad now, it would be far worse with pro se litigants running amok, filing frivolous motions, raising outlandish arguments and consuming even more resources.   As Wilson concludes:

"Deregulating the practice of law would open the floodgates to fraud of every conceivable variety and would only compound the problems that the readers of these pages see in our civil justice system."

I'll be waiting to hear Ribstein's response to this.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 22, 2006 at 04:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


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