It’s been a busy year here at Responsive Law, and we wanted to remind you of some of the top developments from the past twelve months. Starting on December 17, we’ll be counting down the top five stories that have affected your ability to find affordable help with your legal matters. We'll be revealing a new item each day on this page, so check back often. Or you can subscribeto our e-newsletter to receive these updates in your mailbox.
#1: Victory in the Supreme Court
In February, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state bars may be liable for antitrust violations when they engage in anticompetitive conduct without adequate supervision by the state.
Responsive Law filed a brief in the case, North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC, urging the Supreme Court to consider the negative effect that continuing to grant an antitrust exemption to these unsupervised state bars would have on the expanding market of affordable and accessible legal services offered by non-lawyers.
This decision, in addition to removing the antitrust exemption enjoyed by many bar associations, could have profound implications for the ability of lawyers to continue to prohibit their non-lawyer competitors from operating and to prohibit lawyers from using innovative business models to serve their customers.
#2: Report Card on Barriers to Affordable Legal Help
This report card grades each state on how regulations created by the bar prevent Americans from receiving the legal help they need.
We graded each state in three areas: Barriers to Lawyer Help, Barriers to Non-Lawyer Help, and Treatment of Self-Represented Litigants. No state received a grade better than a C, and three states—Florida, North Carolina and Ohio—received an F.
Most of the regulations resulting in these low grades are a result of lawyer protectionism. The lawyers making these regulations have financial incentives to protect themselves against competition from both innovative lawyers and non-lawyer service providers. Unfortunately, when state bars make these regulations, they generally do so without any oversight from the elected branches of government, leaving the public with no voice in who can help them with a legal matter.
#3: Responsive Law Takes National Media By Storm
Responsive Law had op-eds published in two of the nation’s largest newspapers this year, educating an audience of millions about how the lawyer cartel prevents consumers from getting access to affordable legal help.
Our Wall Street Journal op-ed told the story of a non-lawyer who started a document preparation business and provided satisfactory services to his growing customer base, but was nevertheless investigated by the New York Attorney General for violating the state’s unauthorized practice of law statutes.
Our USA Today op-ed highlighted our Report Card on Barriers to Affordable Legal Help, which demonstrates how most states are failing their consumers by maintaining unnecessary barriers to innovative legal service providers.
#4: Washington Licenses Non-Lawyers to Provide Legal Help
The state of Washington has licensed its first Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLTs), after over a decade of debate over the terms under which these professionals would be able to provide legal services to the public.
LLLTs are trained as paralegals but, unlike traditional paralegals, are allowed to provide services directly to the public without a lawyer’s supervision. Among other services, they are allowed to explain legal processes and documents to their customers and help them select and complete court forms.
While California, Arizona, and Nevada allow legal document assistants to help complete forms, legal document assistants are far more limited than LLLTs in the types of services they can provide. Although LLLTs are currently only licensed in family law, it’s expected that the program will ultimately expand to other common consumer legal needs, providing a useful, lower-cost alternative to a lawyer for many Washingtonians.
#5: The Lone Consumer Voice at Lawyer Summit on Innovation
In May, Executive Director Tom Gordon attended the American Bar Association’s invitation-only National Summit on Innovation in Legal Services—the only representative of a consumer organization invited to attend. The three-day summit, held at Stanford University in May, brought together about 200 leaders from the bar, legal technology companies, and legal service providers.
The invitation to the summit confirmed that the bar recognizes the important role that Responsive Law plays in representing consumers of legal services. It also provided an opportunity for Responsive Law to tell the leaders of state bar associations that they need to make way for a new generation of legal services in which innovative lawyers and competent non-lawyers can provide affordable help to the public.
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