Since the post on “Is Practice of Law Already Deregulated?” I have seen numerous other books, articles and posts on this topic. Also since this post, I have challenged colleagues from a variety of roles, on whether I was off-base in my analysis. I wanted people to challenge my assertion that the practice was already de facto deregulated based on vague rules and a blind-eye to activity in the market.
First the Conversations
To give an idea of the range of perspectives I solicited on the post, I spoke with: mandatory bars, the bench, LPOs, law firm risk experts, clients, solo practitioners and even posted the challenge in some on-line forums. Everyone begrudgingly (or some times enthusiastically) agreed with my assessment.
Greg might say they there were just humoring the village idiot – and he may be right. I reassert that challenge here in any event. Feel free to offer your thoughts.
In my continuing research I came across a book from the Brookings Institute titled: “First Thing We Do, Let's Deregulate All the Lawyers.” The Wall Street Journal sums up the he book’s premise well: “Every other U.S. industry that has been deregulated, from trucking to telephones, has lowered prices for consumers without sacrificing quality.”
This GC attacks the idea of allowing non-lawyer ownership in firms and laments the shift towards the “Pursuit of Profit.” In an odd twist he states “I find it particularly unsettling that the threat to the traditional client-lawyer relationship comes from lawyers themselves.” Last I heard, it was clients pushing for a new approach, with lawyers dragging their feet. A backlash is predictable, but I am still thinking about this one – especially coming from a client. The status quo is not working for clients, so maybe this is a “turn-back-the-clock” suggestion.
The Rest of the Story
The largest source of information I found comes from the symposium, “Unlocking the Law: Deregulating the Legal Profession.” Included here (so far) are 30 articles/posts on the subject. A majority favors the idea, however some take exception with it. This is very thought-provoking material.
Even the most ardent supporters of the status quo admit some change is needed. IMHO - when the fringe of the opinion spectrum acknowledges a need for change, then there must be a serious need for it.
Am I suggesting a specific path for this change? No. I do not profess to be that smart. What I do see here is further, compelling evidence of a profession in crisis. If my challenge stands unopposed, the future may bring emerging “Non-Law Firms” striking at the commodity level of the market, then growing up into the more sophisticated levels of services. By the time law firms acknowledge this market encroachment, the game will be over. New-breed providers will have demonstrated the premise that services can indeed be provided at much lower costs without sacrificing (and likely even improving) quality.
The real challenge that should be presented is for the legal profession to abandon its Paradigm of Precedence and embrace the future. Too bold, perhaps.