Interior designers and lawyers

Cite this Article
Larry Ribstein, Interior designers and lawyers, Truth on the Market (April 15, 2011),

The WSJ and I have been discussing the myriad idiotic licensing laws that help strangle entrepreneurship in the US.  Last up was cat groomers. Today it’s interior designers:

Florida is one of only three states that require commercial interior designers to become licensed before they hang a single painting in an office building, school or restaurant. A bill making its way through the state legislature, however, would deregulate the occupation, along with more than a dozen others, including yacht brokers and hair braiders.

That possibility has the state’s licensed interior designers ruffled. They’ve hired Ron Book, one of the state’s most influential lobbyists, to fight the bill. And they’ve stormed legislative hearings to warn of the mayhem that would ensue if the measure passes.

Among the scenarios they’ve conjured: flammable carpets sparking infernos; porous countertops spreading bacteria; jail furnishings being turned into weapons.

* * *

Supporters of deregulation say these claims are little more than scare tactics. Licensed designers want one thing, says Clark Neily, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm: To choke off competition from upstart designers who lack degrees. “I’ve never seen a more concerted and virulent cartelization effort,” says Mr. Neily.

Interior designers in Florida need six years of schooling and apprenticeship and to pass a two-day exam.  Easier to be a lawyer. If you don’t do all this, you’re nothing more than a “decorator.” Unlicensed designers face fines and a year in jail.

The IJ got a judge to strike licensing requirements for residential practitioners, but commercial designers still get a regulatory monopoly. The Florida House has voted to deregulate commercial design.

An unlicensed designer from NJ observes:

“The licensed people are concerned about competition,” she says. “My feeling is, if you’re good at what you do, you never have to be concerned.”

As usual for these licensing posts, I close with a reference to lawyers. As Kobayashi and I have written, their turn in the deregulatory spotlight is coming.