There was a terrific access-to-justice piece in US Today last week, authored by former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis and her fellow Coloradan, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Kourlis and Gorsuch hone right in on the source of the problem:
First, lawyers have historically enjoyed the unusual privilege of regulating themselves, under the authority of state supreme courts. In most states, the profession has used this privilege to erect rules allowing only lawyers to provide “legal services”— no matter how basic the job may be.
They also note the barriers the legal profession has long erected to outside investment, and the perversities this creates in eliminating other sources of consumer-friendly competition:
At your local superstore you may be able to find tax-preparation services or an eye doctor, but you will find no help there for even the simplest legal chore.
And in praising the deregulatory efforts recently taken by Utah and Arizona – and the approach to licensing used in the UK – Kourlis and Gorsuch come so close to advocating that legal advice be pried away from the industry’s monopolistic grip:
Someone seeking legal advice about taxes would often prefer a tax-law expert with no law degree over a trial lawyer with no tax experience.
Of course that’s right. The law is vast, and getting vaster all the time. Yet we still limit legal advice to a class of initiates, chosen via a process that tests for little other than diligence and competence in the law’s broadest strokes, and presume that these people — and only these people — can provide advice on all things having to do with “the law.” It’s bonkers.