Ribstein: Deregulation of Lawyers Will Leader to fewer Lawyers, not incompetent lawyers

October 31st, 2011

Ribstein responds to a piece by Jordan Weissman in the Atlantic critical of deregulation of lawyers. Weissman argues that with regulation, there will be more lawyers.

But don’t we already have too many lawyers? As The Times and other papers have amply documented, the U.S. currently faces a serious glut of attorneys, many of whom are finding it nearly impossible to get work as firms see profits shrink and governments face tighter budgets. Winston and Crandall have a ready retort. By bringing down prices, demand for services will increase, and that will create more legal jobs…

Letting more people become lawyers won’t drive down costs in high-flying corporate law. And although it could help control legal fees for the rest of us, we could wind up allowing under-educated people to represent important cases for families who can’t afford the high-flying treatment.

Ribstein disagrees:

The likely consequences of meaningful deregulation will not be more incompetent lawyers.  Rather, lawyers will have to prove their value against an array of technologies and information services that make legal advice cheaper and more accessible to ordinary consumers.  Whether or not they continue to be licensed, lawyers will have to get better in order not to be replaced by machines.  Licensing may remain, but its domain will shrink.  The changes throughout the existing profession are likely to be vast.