Lawyers' Property Rights in State Law

33 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2000

See all articles by Larry E. Ribstein

Larry E. Ribstein

University of Illinois College of Law (deceased); PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Date Written: November 27, 2000


The current system of state licensing of lawyers is being challenged by significant changes in the legal profession, including multi-state and multi-disciplinary law firms and the rise of Internet law practice. Conventional client-protection explanations of lawyer licensing are inadequate to meet this challenge. However, lawyer licensing can be best understood in the context of the state competition debate. State licensing has an important overlooked benefit in terms of enabling lawyers' role in the state lawmaking process. Efficient laws make the state an attractive forum for potential litigants to choose at the time of their contract. Lawyer licensing encourages lawyers' involvement in lawmaking by capitalizing the benefits of their law-improvement efforts in the value of their law licenses. In other words, state licensing gives lawyers a kind of property right in law. This article shows how lawyers' influence over state law may be consistent with social welfare and how giving lawyers property rights in law through state licensing helps produce these effects.

JEL Classification: G3, H1, H4, H7, K0, K2, K4

Suggested Citation

Ribstein, Larry Edward, Lawyers' Property Rights in State Law (November 27, 2000). Available at SSRN: or

Larry Edward Ribstein (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law (deceased)

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

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