Grieving Criminal Defense Lawyers
Posted: 7 Oct 2004
In this essay, our interest is the regulation of criminal defense lawyers. Our goal is also more general - to bring attention to the relationship between client markets and the regulation of attorneys. While many have addressed how the availability of lawyers varies with clients' capacity to pay, few have looked at how remedies for incompetent or inadequate legal services also vary directly with the financial wherewithal to pay lawyers. The many sources of regulation of lawyers at the top of the legal hierarchy stands in sharp contrast to those mechanisms that exist for lawyers who serve indigent criminal defendants.
Given the bleak landscape of criminal defense, we are in no way starry-eyed. But it is the very bleak and grievously impoverished landscape that prompts us to look for alternatives, and thus to believe that state-based grievance processes are worth exploring. The disciplinary system offers not only another option in a world that seems to have too few but also something else: it provides concrete examples to the bar of specific instances of unsatisfactory practice by a diverse set of lawyers at the less profitable end of legal practices. From such sources could come new insights into the problems that would in turn prompt refinement of rules and norms. Poor provision of criminal defense services is a grievous injury not only for clients but for the legal profession and the public. Public grievance processes are one way to mark the fact of such injury and to begin to piece together responses.
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