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Bring Out the Barristers

Sounds like Norm Pattis of Crime and Federalism is spending too much time on paperwork and not enough in the courtroom -- and it's making him unhappy. But Pattis also has his own solution: Implement a British-like system, with solicitors and barristers.

Pattis describes that in the British system, solicitors work with the clients directly to develop and perfect claims. By contrast, the barristers spend time in court trying cases. Needless to say, Pattis prefers the latter:

The cases I like most are ones that have been prepared by other lawyers. On the civil side, bring me a case that has survived summary judgment and awaits trial. On the criminal side, life is easy when there is no plea bargain the client will accept.

There must be folks who love the inside drudgery of the law. I suspect these are the same folks who spend hours noodling the Rules of Professional Conduct, drafting requirements that lawyers not just counsel clients on the law, but increasingly serve as social workers. These are probably the same folks who are afraid to go to trial.

Divide the profession, I say. Let solicitors work with clients to perfect a claim. Let them endure the stormy meetings, the angry phone calls, the fear, the anxiety, the stuff that makes some clients so difficult. Let solicitors serve as social workers, if that is their heart's desire. But let barristers try cases.

Under Pattis' dichotomy, I'm not sure who would choose to be a solicitor -- or even a barrister, for that matter. For me, it's difficult to argue a case in court when I don't have something vested -- and I don't feel vested in a case unless I've worked on it with my client. 

In addition, I don't know whether Pattis' dichotomy is even possible given the way our judicial system works today, with fewer cases going to trial. For example, when I looked at The American Lawyer's Young Litigator's Top 50, it seemed as if many of who'd made the list didn't even have much trial experience and instead argued motions or negotiated settlements. If that's where our judicial system is headed, then I'm not sure that being a barrister, as Pattis would like, is even feasible.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on January 2, 2007 at 07:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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