“It’s getting to be so hard to define what the practice of law is. So it’s going to be even harder for state bars to regulate in the future.”

August 5th, 2011

Oh, the cartel weakens.

From the ABA Journal:

Increased competition from nonlawyer entities and blurred distinctions between legal and nonlegal work are just two of the major impactors redefining modern law firms, regardless of their size.

As a result, lawyers need to embrace an entrepreneurial spirit more than ever. Indeed, they should distinguish themselves by providing value, beyond their knowledge of the law and being able to craft documents, panelists said at the ABA Annual Meeting on Friday.

The panelists emphasized that there are shrinking legal monopolies across nearly all practice areas: There’s been a permanent shift to self-representation in the majority of divorce proceedings in states such as California, and accounting firms and investment banks are encroaching on complex tax and regulatory matters once solely handled by law firms.

“Lawyers need to ask: Why are [clients] hiring me?” said Mark Robertson of Robertson & Williams in Oklahoma City. “Can they hire someone else and not have a law firm do it? What is involved in putting together the paperwork of an M&A transaction that requires a lawyer, other than an opinion?”

To answer your question, most clients don’t need to hire lawyers, and but for the cartel, and the specter of prosecution for “unauthorized practice of law,” more and more clients would not hire lawyers.