Letters to the Editor
Letters: Alternative Branding Solution?
The U.S. has a problem of overregulation. This prevents the population from obtaining any advice unless they have the funds. This leads to a certain injustice, since some can't enforce or understand their rights.
Moreover, it is clear that the U.S. uses much more legalese than in the U.K., and thus anyone who does not have a legal background will have a hard time understanding the issues at stake. This is a serious issue, since most people deal with contracts they don't understand.
I think that opening up the market and offering legal services at a fixed price would simply open a previously untouched market; it would not at all impact the practice of BigLaw firms since they deal with a completely different customer base. It would also provide jobs to law graduates who seek an alternative to the traditional law firm route.
New York City
This article is completely spot-on! The ridiculous and antiquated ethics rules in the USA hamper competition, innovation and the ability of firms to provide services to their clients. The people who are helped by the rules are not the clients but the attorneys, since these laws only serve to limit their competition.
Rolling Hills Estates, California
"Flexing ABS" provides a good description of the interplay between the traditional ban on nonlawyer ownership of law firms, restrictions on multidisciplinary practice and the unauthorized practice of law. In its treatment of UPL by lawyers licensed in one state but not in another, however, the article repeated a small, common, but important mistake.
If I am sitting in my Florida office and a Florida resident walks in and asks for some legal advice about corporation law in Delaware (where I am not licensed), I can give that advice and charge for it, without fear of running afoul of any UPL laws in any jurisdiction. I am not engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in Florida because I am licensed in Florida, and I am not engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in Delaware because I am not practicing law in Delaware.
It is true that the Florida rules prohibit me from "practicing law" in Delaware in violation of Delaware's rules, but Delaware has no power to reach outside its borders and decree that only Delaware lawyers may advise clients with respect to Delaware law, outside of Delaware.
Lady Lake, Florida
I found the article about limited license legal technicians in Washington state to be perplexing ("Authorized Practice," January, page 72). After passing a bar exam, I would be willing to take a pay cut to get meaningful work experience in any area of law, and so far I have been unable to find even meaningful volunteer work in my area.
Further, I cannot understand why I am required as a lawyer to complete a bachelor of arts and pass the LSAT to gain admission to an accredited law school, when a legal technician only needs an associate's degree and completion of a single course in family law. Can I sit for the LLLT bar exam now that I completed all of my credits at an ABA-accredited law school?
I can't imagine the State Bar of California approving this sort of thing anytime soon. These are the same people who couldn't see fit to approve bringing California's Rules of Professional Conduct in line with the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, as interpreted in most other jurisdictions, after almost five years of dithering about. The idea of the state with the most lawyers—and probably the highest number of underemployed ones—approving paralegals doing legal work, even on a limited basis, without some sort of backlash, is unlikely. It's one thing for a paralegal to work on issues with a team of attorneys, who are ultimately responsible—quite another for them to pursue it independently. In the end, clients get what they pay for.
La Jolla, California
I was a paralegal for more than 11 years. Logically, then, I should have an interest in any proposition that would permit nonlawyers to "practice" law. However, I think any proposition that allows nonlawyers to practice law would not properly serve the public. I really cannot wrap my arms around the notion that real, qualified attorney help is so unavailable. Law schools have turned out scores of new attorneys. Many are so hungry for work and money—not to mention hungry in their stomachs—that they compete with paralegals for their jobs. Why can these attorneys not take on all those folks starving for legal help? They certainly will not charge the same fees as a 20-year BigLaw partner. Also, it's vital to note that even though "legal technicians" might be thoroughly tested, vetted and licensed, the charlatan potential remains. LLLTs have not received the depth of legal training attorneys receive. Even attorneys who specialize still have the breadth of knowledge to see and analyze fact patterns in greater depth than most nonlawyers. There is a reason attorneys are referred to as "counselors at law."
Consumers deserve the best the legal industry can give them. Maybe the courts should try harder to streamline their hard-to-navigate procedures to be more comprehensible and user friendly.
MAGNA CARTA MUSINGS
"A Magna Carta Style Guide," January, page 26, was very much enjoyed. However, the Magna Carta is considered a "recent" document for those of us who practice in the area of mining law.
The tin miners of England were granted wide freedoms by King John 14 years prior to the Magna Carta by the "Charter of Liberties to the Tinners of Cornwall and Devon" in 1201. These miners were granted the right to "dig for tin ... at all times freely and peaceably without hindrance from any man, on the moors and in the fiefs of bishops, abbots and earls" as they had been accustomed to do. The 1201 charter established a plenary forum for dispute resolution (before the chief warden of the stannaries and his bailiffs), granted freedom from other "summons" curtailing the miners' work, and directed local "treasurers" to oversee tin markets.
The granting of extraordinary rights to miners, given their special expertise and need for free access to lands and minerals, had been the practice in Europe during the Middle Ages, and it stemmed from the Roman and Greek mining laws.
The Magna Carta expanded this grant of freedom to a wider community, but it was a culmination of a long tradition of giving special rights to miners.
Robert A. Bassett
Greenwood Village, Colorado
Stick to your guns and continue to write "the Magna Carta." You'd never say: "Constitution was ratified in 1789." You'd look foolish saying: "Thomas Jefferson wrote Declaration of Independence." You'd wouldn't dream of writing: "2015 is the 800th anniversary of Great Charter."
Gregory M. Kennan