Death Knell for UPL?

It’s FINALLY happening – a credible lawsuit taking on the lawyers’ monopoly on providing legal advice.

I’ve long railed on the fundamental disconnect between the First Amendment’s expansive free speech guarantees and the fact that every state in the union will throw you in prison if you so much as tell someone how to fill out a legal form.

It’s an indefensible state of affairs that has persisted for far too long. Yes, there are plenty of uses for lawyers, and even some scenarios in which giving lawyers a monopoly to provide services is best for all concerned.

But a monopoly on providing “legal advice?” That doesn’t cut it.

I’ll do a longer post about why the defenses of this status quo are wholly inadequate, but for now I’m just going to recognize the excellence of the folks at UpSolve — a nonprofit that helps people defend against debt collection lawsuits — in bringing this First Amendment lawsuit against the state of New York.

In their complaint UpSolve sensibly brings attention to the fact that their volunteers are well-trained, advise only in narrow areas, and do so for free. Those factors all weigh against any argument that New York’s legal monopoly is necessary in this particular case. But “professional speech” caselaw — maybe the most neglected area of First Amendment law — has been blooming ever since the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in NIFLA v. Becerra. Some courts are now even outright applying strict scrutiny to regulation of professional speech (see here, and here, and here). So please forgive me for hoping that UpSolve’s lawsuit may in fact be the start of something very big.

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