Lawyers Failing the People

It’s not like our society is getting less bureaucratic, less litigious, less in need of legal guidance. And indeed, as Professor Bill Henderson’s number-crunching shows, the spend on business and government legal services went up nearly 20% in the 5 year period between 2007 and 2012.

But consumer spending over that time? It went DOWN by over 10%.

That’s awful. It’s awful for the lawyers who could be more gainfully employed, but it’s really awful for the public. Their legal needs haven’t shrunk by 10%; they’re just choosing to do without legal assistance.

These numbers represent a collective action failure on the part of lawyers, regulators, and legal trade associations. Our industry has carved out a rigid monopoly in providing legal services, but it has clung for far too long to a single way of doing business.

Consumers in 2017 expect transparency, predictability, information, and control when making purchases. Instead, we give them opaque, uncertain, “full scope” representation as the only option. And forget about innovations like ease of purchase, satisfaction guarantees, or non-lawyers providing some routine legal services.

The practice of law isn’t going to shrink its way to relevance in people’s lives. These numbers should be a wake-up call that we need to get serious – about regulatory reform, about embracing innovation, about the extent of the legal monopoly – if we’re going to stave off this escalating crisis in consumer access to justice.

2 thoughts on “Lawyers Failing the People”

  1. Hello,

    I have come back to your blog every so often and enjoy reading your blogs about issues surrounding UPL (an issue I’m familiar with and have been researching for a while), so I happened to think of this blog when I read the transcript of SCOTUS oral arguments of Masterpiece Cakeshop and saw that Chief Justice Roberts brought up the topic of legal services as possibly being expressive conduct and whether they could be protected by the First Amendment. Despite being portrayed in the media and even many legal blogs as simply whether making the cake is protected speech or whether there is a right to discriminate, the case actually involves some incredibly difficult decisions to make. The Chief Justice first brings up the hypothetical of Catholic Legal Services providing pro bono legal services on pg. 47-51 (pg. 48-52 of PDF file) of the transcript during discussion with counsel for Colorado. However, he raises the hypothetical again with counsel (Mr. Cole) for the couple that were denied the cake from Masterpiece Cakeshop (who were represented by the ACLU) on pg. 90-93 (pg. 91-94 of the PDF). Mr. Cole answered that the legal services were speech, but the Chief Justice responds that its “partly expressive conduct”:

    Mr. Cole: “But the Court might say that when what you’re regulating is only speech, not expressive conduct — because, remember, the O’Brien test, the CCMV test, the FAIR versus Rumsfeld test -”

    Chief Justice: “But this not only speech; it’s providing legal services.”

    Mr. Cole: “Yeah, but the — the legal services are speech, Your Honor, I don’t know what other than speech I’m engaged in, for example, right now. ”

    Chief Justice: “No, I would say partly expressive conduct. You’re engaged in a representation before the Court, which involves a lot more than simply what you’re saying in response to the answers.”

    This exchange certainly isn’t a significant UPL development, but it’s something that you might find interesting (and maybe even worth blogging about).

Leave a Reply