Business of Law
ABA President: Allowing Nonlawyers to Practice Law Isn’t Solution to Justice Gap
Posted Aug 31, 2011 6:43 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III agrees the poor need more legal help, but says deregulating law practice is not the answer.
Robinson outlines the ABA’s views on legal aid for the poor in a letter to the editor of the New York Times. His letter responds to a Times op-ed last week that suggests the “justice gap” could be addressed by allowing nonlawyers “into the mix” who could handle easier matters such as uncontested divorces. A Wall Street Journal op-ed by two Brookings Institution fellows, also published last week, made a similar point.
Robinson disagrees. “A rush to open the practice of law to unschooled, unregulated nonlawyers is not the solution,” he writes. “This would cause grave harm to clients. Even matters that appear simple, such as uncontested divorces, involve myriad legal rights and responsibilities. If the case is not handled by a professional with appropriate legal training, a person can suffer serious long-term consequences affecting loved ones or financial security.”
Robinson offers another solution: more funding for the Legal Services Corp. He also points out that the ABA supports lawyer pro bono and legal aid funding provided by Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts.