Would solos take a hit if limited licensing of nonlawyers were allowed?
Posted Sep 27, 2013 03:30 pm CDT
While the recommendations in the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education’s draft report (PDF) regarding law schools is what grabbed the most headlines, it also called on courts, state bars and bar-admitting authorities to come up with frameworks for licensing of limited legal service providers.
But Richard Granat, co-chair of the ABA Law Practice Management Section’s eLawyering Task Force, has some reservations, which he shared at his eLawyering Blog.
While Granat notes that he has long advocated for paralegals to be able to serve the public directly, he says he’s recently started to reconsider the viability of “a new class of legal paraprofessionals.” Solos and small firms—who are already being displaced by technology to some extent—are lowering their rates as it is, and he doesn’t see evidence that the hypothetical limited licensed practitioner would charge lower fees than these lawyers. Lawyers would lose, and consumers wouldn’t win.
“Introduction of a new class of limited licensed professionals will continue to erode the economic model of solo and small law firm practice by sucking out from those practices the more routine legal services, which are important to sustaining the economic viability of those law firms,” Granat writes.
Fear and ethics
James J. “Whitey” Bulger—who was recently convicted of multiple counts of murder, money laundering, extortion, weapons, and conspiracy to distribute narcotics—had a lawyer who helped him close a number of real estate deals in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
Does that mean this lawyer helped Bulger facilitate money laundering? Bulger’s lawyer granted an interview to CBS Boston in which he said that the transactions he completed for Bulger were legal, as far as he knew.
“At some point in time I suppose I would have preferred not to be doing business with Mr. Bulger, but that time never came,” the lawyer told CBS Boston. “There was an element of concern that could be translated into perhaps a small element of fear.”
Suffolk University Law School professor Andrew M. Perlman was also quoted in the story, and he discussed his answers at Legal Ethics Forum.
“The answer essentially turns on what Bulger’s real estate lawyer knew and when he knew it,” Perlman wrote.
But the interview raised other ethical questions—most interestingly from the admission that the lawyer had some fear of Bulger, Perlman wrote. “Are there are any disciplinary cases in which lawyers have successfully defended themselves against alleged misconduct on the grounds that they were acting out of fear of their clients?”
Pro se primer
At Solo Practice University, Forest Hills, N.Y., solo Barry Seidel offered some tips based on his own experiences in dealing with pro se adversaries.
One thing Seidel advises is trying to schedule a nonconfrontational meeting with the pro se to discuss the case before you both conference with the judge. Then, offer to summarize to the judge what was discussed, letting the pro se interject if he or she feels the need. About 90 percent of pro se adversaries will agree to this, in Seidel’s experience. And if they don’t, and they flounder in that initial conference, the judge will end up helping the pro se. “This is not supposed to happen, but it happens,” Seidel wrote. “Your job is to not let it happen that way.”
A second tip: If the case goes to trial, and the pro se litigant is “really wacky,” Seidel doesn’t “object on technicalities. I let them go on, and on, until I am sure the judge realizes we are dealing with a nut. Then I reel the situation in.”
Who would you call?
Sunday is the much-hyped finale of Breaking Bad, which some argue is the greatest TV series ever produced. Another show that often tops all-time lists is The Wire (which has actually spawned a law school textbook and course at William & Mary School of Law). The shows are very different in tone and scope, but both prominently feature drug dealers and their go-to lawyer.
Bitter Lawyer’s Robin Hitchcock decided to do a side-by-side comparison of the two shows’ criminal defense lawyers: Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman and The Wire’s Maurice Levy. (Neither of whom made our 25 Greatest Fictional Lawyers list back in 2010, incidentally.)
She ultimately declared Goodman the winner. His legal talents or lack thereof on the show notwithstanding, he gets points for style, she says. “He owns that he is a scoundrel, as well as a low-rent strip-mall lawyer. His charisma generally outpaces his obnoxiousness. It really helps that he’s one of the greatest (only?) sources of comic relief in the extremely bleak series.”
Levy, on the other hand, is “one of the least sympathetic characters in The Wire, a series which has no shortage of villains.”