Phi Beta Cons

The Needlessly High Cost of Legal Education

The writer of this piece understands that the high cost of getting through law school has a serious impact on the availability of legal services for poorer people. She writes, “You know why? Because when a poor, distressed client shows up in desperate need of legal representation, the lawyer will say ‘Get the HELL OUT OF MY OFFICE, you freaking HOBO. I’ve been paying off interest on my loans since I was 22 years old. I don’t FART on somebody for less than $50 an hour. You’ll be RECEIVING A BILL for this one-minute conversation!’”

Alas, she does not see the Gordian Knot-cutting solution: don’t make people earn JDs before taking the bar exam. I don’t think anyone really needs three full years of legal study to become a competent practitioner, but it certainly is not true that everyone does. In fact, there have been plenty of cases where legal secretaries have gone into business, providing competent services for people (not necessarily all poor) within their areas of knowledge. But as soon as that comes to light, state bar officials attack them furiously for violating the “unauthorized practice of law” statute. We should deregulate both legal education and legal practice.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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