D. APPROVAL OF ALTERNATIVE BUSINESS STRUCTURES/MULTI-DISCIPLINARY PRACTICE SUBCOMMITTEE REPORTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PUBLIC COMMENT CIRCULATION
- Recommendation: Confirm that the scope of the Task Force’s charter includes entities which may or may not have lawyer ownership or operational management and/or control.
- Recommendation: Entities can be composed of lawyers, non-lawyers or a combination of the two, however, regulation would be required and may differ depending on the structure of the entity.
- Recommendation: Non-lawyers will be authorized to provide legal advice and services as an exemption to UPL with appropriate regulation.
- Recommendation: The models being proposed would include individuals and entities working for-profit and would not be limited to not for profits.
- Recommendation: Lawyers in traditional practice and law firms perform legal and law related services under the current regulatory framework with the intention of expanding access to justice through innovation with the use of technology and modifications in relationships with non-lawyers.
All that law school. All that bar exam. Who needs it? The opening of the guild has been one of the “access to justice” crowd’s key solutions, because lawyers are expensive and people either can’t afford them or prefer not to squander their disposable savings on them when there’s always a new iPhone around the corner. Of course, lawyers have children who like to eat every night, so they have to earn a living. And then, there’s the cost of entry, which suggests that they might want to earn a decent, if not lavish, living, plus pay off law school debts.
“Non-lawyers will be authorized to provide legal advice and services” has been a rallying cry for those who cry over A2J and not so much over starving lawyers. The question is whether any of the hurdles over which lawyers are required to jump really matter, or matter enough that they should preclude any random person from hanging out a shingle or showing up in court.
The California Bar has taken a bold leap and decided, “no, we don’t need no stinkin’ lawyers.”
Law firms would be open to ownership by anyone, opening the curious potential of buying some law off Amazon when it goes on sale. The ethical constraints imposed on lawyers wouldn’t be involved when non-lawyers run the shop, so the potential for cheap, fast and conflicted law is wide open. Competent law may be another matter. After all, if your law-provider tells you that filing a UCC 1-308 will keep you out of prison, who are you to doubt her?
Are the lawyers in California aware of this? Are they on board with this? There has been no hue and cry over breaking the wall between the crime formerly known as the Unauthorized Practice of Law and the crime of lawyers expecting to get paid by people who need legal services but would prefer them cheap, if not free.
There have been forays into new ways of providing less expensive legal services, such as Washington State’s 3LT program, which hasn’t panned out nearly as well as the A2J folks would have expected, and hasn’t been adopted anywhere else. If that novel approach is a failure, is eliminating the necessity of lawyers being lawyers a wiser solution? The State Bar of California apparently thinks so. I wonder if current Cali lawyers can sell their diplomas on eBay to make up the income lost to Joe’s Law Services and Lawnmower Repair? After all, it’s not as if the poor deserve competent counsel.
Update: In invited California State Bar trustee, Joanna Mendoza, after she twitted that this post was “uninformed and narcissistic,” to leave a comment to explain why it’s wrong. She twitter her response, but in an excess of fairness, I provide it below.
She seems nice.
H/T Keith Lee