Friday, November 6 is Love Your Lawyer Day. On this day, according to the American Lawyer Public Image Association (ALPIA), we should refrain from telling lawyer jokes and from “lawyer bashing.”
Responsive Law has never told lawyer jokes (although, speaking as a lawyer myself, the profession could certainly have a thicker skin about them), but we’ve probably been accused of lawyer bashing a few times. However, our disdain is not for lawyers as a profession, but for the system of unchecked self-regulation that allows lawyers to prevent competition and innovation that could benefit consumers.
So, on Love Your Lawyer Day, if you’ve used a lawyer and were happy with their services, feel free (as ALPIA suggests) to send your lawyer flowers, or make a donation to charity in their name. (Responsive Law would be an appropriate recipient!) But also ask your lawyer a couple of questions:
- Do you feel that you, as a lawyer, are the only professional who is competent to help me with legal matters?
- Do you believe that lawyers should only work under the supervision of other lawyers, and should not provide services to the public through a company with non-lawyer ownership.
If the answer to the first question is yes, you may want to hold off on that floral arrangement. Your lawyer wants to prevent you from using paralegals, financial planners, and a host of other less expensive professionals to address problems that the bar considers the exclusive domain of lawyers.
And if the answer to the second question is yes, you may want to make that charitable donation in someone else’s name. Your lawyer is standing in the way of innovation that could allow companies like Walgreens, Costco, or Sam’s Club (not to mention startups that are currently a glimmer in someone’s eye) to use economies of scale and better business practices to provide you a lawyer at a fraction of the $200/hour it costs you now.
After taking back your flowers and rededicating your charitable gift, ask your lawyer what he thinks of the Supreme Court’s February 2015 decision in North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC. In this case, the Court held that a profession may not use its regulatory power to prevent competition unless the profession is adequately supervised by the state. Responsive Law field a brief in this case telling the court about how state bar associations do exactly this, filing complaints against non-lawyer competitors for the unauthorized practice of law.
Some would call our Supreme Court brief lawyer bashing. But we’d prefer to think of it as supporting consumers. Lawyers are no worse (and no better) in their ethics than any other profession. But they participate in a system that allows them to set their own rules, without public input.
So, on this Love Your Lawyer Day, ask your lawyer one more question:
3. Will you tell your state bar to abolish rules that solely protect lawyers’ interests, and to instead make rules that increase public access to legal help?
To be fair, some of the lawyers out there already are doing this. We’d like to send virtual bouquets to all the lawyers who have spoken out against the lawyer monopoly and in favor of innovation in the delivery of legal services. Thank you for being part of the solution, not part of the problem!
Unfortunately, many state bar associations are dominated by old-school lawyers who don’t want to change a system that has benefited them for decades, even if it’s at the expense of the public. Not only are those lawyers not going to get flowers from us, but we will continue to fight them until the public gets the affordable, accessible legal system it deserves.
If that’s lawyer-bashing, then Responsive Law is certainly guilty of it. But removing an entrenched monopoly from its anti-consumer perch is more important than the hurt feelings of a few lawyers.