The Legal Profession’s Monopoly: Failing to Protect Consumers
Rigertas, Laurel A.
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This article explores the implication of the legal monopoly that occurs through the current attorney regulation system used in most states. Through the lens of consumer protection, the author discusses how the current regulatory regime, limiting the practice of law to only those who have law licenses and law degrees, effects a landscape where many potential legal consumers' needs are not being met. First, the author provides a general discussion of consumer protection and the public interest. Then, the author focuses specifically on the legal profession, discussing the historical justification for the legal profession's monopoly: consumer protection, advancing the integrity of the judicial system and the rule of law, and economic protectionism. Next, she turns to the impact this monopoly has on consumer protection: self-policing systems deprive the consumer of the full force of state and federal consumer protection; limiting competition drives up costs, restricts access, and stifles innovation. Finally, she looks at reassessing the legal profession's monopoly. She argues that the strength of the argument justifying limiting legal services providers to only licensed attorneys does not have the same force over the entire spectrum of legal work. Therefore, she feels there can be a strong case for some regulation of legal service, especially when addressing the issues caused by the gap in access to legal services.