Profession Deleted: Using Market and Liability Forces to Regulate the Very Ordinary Business of Law Practice for Profit

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Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics


law practice, legal profession, professionalism, law service, self-regulation of lawyers


This essay is obviously critical about the general quality of legal services now being sold to consumers of lawyers' services. The unfortunate fact is that no one can pinpoint the exact proportion of lawyers who fall somewhere along a continuum between inept, negligent, client-gouging and criminal. There are no complete empirical data that tells us the extent of client dissatisfaction. Nor would it be reliable even if there were studies because many clients don't even know what qualifies as good representation. But there is a stream of indicators that suggest strongly that lawyers are falling far short of where they should be. The population of lawyers in private practice who fit into the range of inept all the way through criminal is, however, sufficiently large that any effective system to regulate those lawyers must necessarily apply to lawyers who are generally ethical and professional -- sort of a Holmesian "Bad Man" approach to the dilemma of the oversight of lawyers. In regulating the behavior of lawyers we need to apply classic economic analysis regarding self-interest and the creation of real incentives for good practices and disincentives for bad behavior. This approach is not only the interest of clients and society but also those lawyers who seek to honor the rapidly fading spirit of principled professionalism.


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