The Cost of Law: Promoting Access to Justice through the Corporate Practice of Law
62 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2012
Date Written: November 2012
The U.S. faces a mounting crisis in access to justice. Vast numbers of ordinary Americans represent themselves in routine legal matters daily in our over-burdened courts. Obtaining ex ante legal advice is effectively impossible for almost everyone except larger corporate entities, organizations and governments. In this paper, I explain why, as a matter of economic policy, it is essential that the legal profession abandon the prohibition on the corporate practice of law in order to remedy the access problem. The prohibitions on the corporate practice of law rule out the use of essential organizational and contracting tools widely used in most industries to control costs, improve quality and reduce errors. This keeps prices for legal assistance high by cutting the industry off from the ordinary economic benefits of scale, data analysis, product and process engineering and diversified sources of capital and innovation. Lawyers operating in law firms have not generated these benefits but they have appeared in settings, such as basic document completion, and countries, such as the U.K., where the corporate practice of law doctrine does not prevail. Eliminating restrictions on the corporate practice of law can significantly improve the access ordinary Americans have to legal help in a law-thick world.
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