“First Thing We Do, Let’s Deregulate All the Lawyers”

July 18th, 2011

I couldn’t agree more. From Marginal Revolutions:

Lawyers are prominent among the 20 percent of the U.S. labor force that needs to obtain a government license to practice their profession. Even people who have a legal education are prevented from practicing law in all but a few states unless they graduated from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). ABA regulations also prevent licensed lawyers who work for firms that are not owned and managed by lawyers from providing legal services to parties outside of their firm. At the same time, a slate of government policies has increased the demand for lawyers’ services. Basic economics suggests that entry barriers to the legal profession, regulations on the type of legal services that firms and individuals can provide, and government-induced demand for lawyers will raise the price of legal services.

In First Thing We Do, Let’s Deregulate All the Lawyers, Clifford Winston, Robert Crandall, and Vikram Maheshri argue that this higher price cannot be justified as the “cost” of ensuring that uninformed consumers of legal services are served by competent lawyers and that socially desirable policies are implemented and executed. Instead, the forces that reduce the supply of, and increase the demand for, lawyers create significant social costs from higher legal fees, less innovation by law firms and lawyers, misallocation of the nation’s labor resources, and socially perverse incentives for attorneys to support inefficient policies that preserve and enhance their wealth.

To address those costs and improve social welfare, the authors propose that it is desirable to deregulate entry by individuals and firms into the legal profession. This will force lawyers to compete more intensely with each other and to face competition from nonlawyers and firms that are not owned and managed by lawyers. Allowing an ABA monopoly on law school accreditation is not necessary to facilitate informed decisions by consumers of legal services, and neither are statewide licensing-exam requirements.

The book provides a much-needed analysis of a profession whose services have long been seen as enormously expensive. Too little has been done to identify a large source of the costs to consumers and to explain that the system of regulation enables those costs to persist.

The cartel won’t last long friends. Embrace the change now.

The Amazon link is here.