Historically, lawyers have enjoyed a unprecedented monopoly on the practice of law. Couched as a measure to protect recipients of legal services, this phenomenon seems reasonable and remains justifiable. However, is this a tenable justification? In professions ranging from medicine to architecture, traditional practitioners (e.g., doctors) have relinquished their exclusive abilities to practice. This begs the question: is the legal profession next? Should it be next?
To be fair, this usurpation of legal work by non-lawyers has been taking place for a number of years (e.g., LegalZoom and CPAs’ authorization to practice before the United State Tax Court). Similar underlying pressures that precipitated the foregoing gerrymandering of legal professional boundaries, including the classical economic theory of the benefits of competition, are now pushing to expand the field’s boundaries to allow others to “practice”. For example, Big Four accounting firms are planning to practice legal work where authorized. Internationally, accounting firms have been doing legal work for years (e.g., Deloitte Legal).
Questions to consider:
- Do you feel threatened as a future lawyer?
- Will competition in the legal space serve (e.g., lower prices) or hurt (i.e., PR issues) client interests?
- How should state bars respond?
- How does this shift align with the general trend of technological and professional changes in the legal profession?