In little more than four decades, the field of American legal ethics has been transformed from an unimportant backwater into a mighty river of legal principles that drives the practice of law in countless respects. Today, this complex matrix of substantive provisions and enforcement mechanisms ensures, to a great extent, that clients are protected from unnecessary harm, that lawyers are safeguarded from improper accusations, and that the provision of legal services is consistent with the public interest. However, the fabric of legal ethics is threatened by a looming transformation of the legal profession. That potential restructuring may revolutionize the delivery of legal services by replacing what is essentially a unified American legal profession that has monopoly powers and corresponding responsibilities with a diverse range of legal services providers, some of whom may not be lawyers at all, others of whom may not be fully licensed, and none of whom will enjoy an exclusive franchise. Such changes, if they come to pass, will undercut the foundations upon which the law of modern legal ethics is founded. It will then be necessary to reconstitute an effective legal ethics regime for a world of disaggregated legal services.
Vincent R. Johnson,
Legal Malpractice in a Changing Profession: The Role of Contract Principles,
61 Clev. St. L. Rev.
available at http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clevstlrev/vol61/iss2/8