Of all the buzzwords our modern economy has spawned, few are as notorious as “outsourced.” In the current economic downturn, even lawyers weren’t immune to losing jobs overseas, but now Connecticut state Rep. Patricia Dillon is backing a bill that would charge non-lawyers performing legal document review work overseas (a job that usually requires a law license in the United States) with unauthorized practice of law.
Irrespective of the merits or practicalities of the bill, there is a more confusing issue at stake. For many years, laws and rules against the unauthorized practice of law have crowded competent non-lawyer service providers out of the marketplace. Under the guise of consumer protection, the legal profession has prevented consumers from choosing lower cost alternatives to traditional legal representation, pricing access to the legal system out of the reach of most Americans in the process
But when the economy went sour, lawyers were just as eager as any business to control costs. Since lawyers are very expensive, it was an obvious choice to outsource legal work to non-lawyers. Rules against the unauthorized practice of law prevented use of lower cost, non-lawyer labor here in the United States, however, so law firms had to outsource the work overseas. In other words, rules in our country prevent the average consumer from using less expensive non-lawyer services, but don’t stop law firms from availing themselves of the same lower cost services in another country.
Since the legal profession has demonstrated that its alleged concerns about protecting consumers from non-lawyer legal services stop at the water’s edge, perhaps instead of Representative Dillon trying to curtail the use of non-lawyer practitioners overseas, her constituents would be far better served by allowing them access to lower cost non-lawyer services here at home.