Written by Tom Gordon
Most lawyers would have you believe that the legal profession's rule preventing the unauthorized practice of law by non-lawyers exists to protect consumers from receiving poor legal advice. To be sure, that is an important goal. Bad legal advice can be devastating to a consumer; possibly resulting in huge financial losses or even jail.
But while the legal profession is right to consider the danger to consumers of poor legal advice, it runs the risk of upholding legal standards to the detriment of making legal services accessible and affordable. Unable to pay for legal services, consumers are forced to make do with whatever help may be available for free; or worse, simply ignore legal problems and hope for the best. There is another solution.
Why not create a more open market for legal services?
Without question, everyone involved in the debate about how legal services are provided to consumers considers it imperative that those services be competent and reliable, but preserving a system that purports to adhere to the highest possible standards of legal service, but is priced beyond the means of a majority of consumers serves only the interests of lawyers.
Having the vast majority of consumers go without affordable legal care in the interest of protecting consumers from poor legal advice is like Sundance telling Butch he doesn't want to jump off a 300 foot cliff into a river because he can't swim. "Hell," Butch says, "the fall's gonna kill you." It's not just poor legal advice that hurts consumers, it's none at all.
Tom Gordon is Executive Director of Responsive Law