Robert Crandall and Clifford Winston’s op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal makes the case for deregulating the practice of law:
Entry deregulation would also expand individuals’ options for preparing for a career in legal services, including attending vocational and online schools and taking apprenticeships without acquiring formal legal education. Established law schools would face pressure to reduce tuition and shorten the time to obtain a degree, which would substantially reduce the debt incurred by those who choose to go to those schools.
Supporters of occupational licensing to restrict the number of lawyers in the U.S. are wrong to assert that deregulation would unleash a wave of unscrupulous or incompetent new entrants into the profession. Large companies seeking advice in complex financial deals would still look to established lawyers, most of whom would probably be trained at traditional law schools but may work for a corporation instead of a law firm.
Others, seeking simpler legal services such as a simple divorce or will, would have an expanded choice of legal-service providers, which they would choose only after consulting the Internet or some other modern channel of information about a provider’s track record. Just as the medical field has created physician assistants to deal with less serious cases, the legal profession can delegate simple tasks.
Licensing and regulation of lawyers, long questioned by scholars, is emerging as an important public issue. Legal costs are rising for individuals and firms with increases in litigation and regulation. These costs tax business growth and entrepreneurship and impede ordinary Americans’ access to the civil justice system. Meanwhile, the development of new business structures and technologies and significant regulatory moves toward opening up competition for legal services in the UK and elsewhere are forcing policymakers to address lawyer licensing and regulation. A new book on deregulating the legal profession by Crandall, Winston and Vikram Maheshri should also help to focus scholarly and public attention on this issue.
Truth on the Market is planning an online symposium that will take place over two days, SEPTEMBER 19 and 20, covering these issues, and building upon our successful “Free to Choose?” symposium last fall on behavioral law and economics. The “Unlocking the Law” symposium is designed to start an intellectual dialogue on this topic, bringing together legal scholars and economists with a variety of views and perspectives on the law and economics of the legal profession, regulation, antitrust.
Some questions the Symposium will consider are:
- Should lawyer licensing be abolished?
- What alternative regulatory approaches or structures should be considered?
- What would a deregulated market for legal services look like?
- Does lawyer regulation raise issues different from those of licensing and regulating other professions?
- Does delegating to lawyers the power to restrict the right to practice law violate the antitrust laws?
- What are the First Amendment implications of regulating what non-lawyers can say about the law?
- To what extent can national or global competition alone break down barriers to law practice even without deregulation?
- What are the implications of deregulation of the profession for law schools?
A great group of participants with a variety of perspectives on these issues will join the regular TOTM bloggers to discuss these issues. Confirmed so far are:
- Hans Bader
- James Cooper
- Robert Crandall
- Nuno Garoupa
- Bill Henderson
- Dan Katz
- Bruce Kobayashi
- George Leef
- Jon Macey
- Tom Morgan
- Richard Painter
- Eric Rasmusen
- Eric Talley
It should be fun. We hope you’ll join the discussion in the comments.