Neil Gorsuch on Expanding Access to Legal Services
In a recent USA Today op ed coauthored with former Colorado Supreme Court justice Rebecca Love Kourlis, conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch takes up a cause traditionally associated with the political left: expanding access to legal services. As they explain, we can do much to make legal services more affordable for the poor and lower middle class by breaking down barriers to entry into the market:
Sooner or later, almost all of us face a need for legal advice. Maybe we want a will drafted, find ourselves in a divorce, or disagree with our landlord about a lease. Property disputes, tax questions, automobile accidents: The list goes on. And it’s no secret that, even to accomplish the simplest task, hiring a lawyer is expensive — too expensive.
As a result, more and more people today find themselves forced to go it alone in court. A national study in 2015 found that in 76% of civil cases, at least one party was self-represented…..
As lawyers and judges, we cannot ignore that the problem is partly of our own making. Consider two examples. First, lawyers have historically enjoyed the unusual privilege of regulating themselves, under the authority of state supreme courts. In most states, the profession has used this privilege to erect rules allowing only lawyers to provide “legal services”— no matter how basic the job may be….
Second, the profession has generally insulated the legal industry from market competition. Only lawyers may own or invest in law firms. This restriction on capital investment reduces the number of market participants, which in turn prevents competition from reducing costs. At your local superstore you may be able to find tax-preparation services or an eye doctor, but you will find no help there for even the simplest legal chore. Both of these longstanding practices protect the entrenched interests of the legal profession at the expense of the clients we are meant to serve..
Fortunately, some states are now trying to address these problems. Just last month, the supreme courts of both Utah and Arizona took bold steps to increase access to justice. Beginning in 2021, Arizona will recognize a new category of trained, non-lawyer legal professionals who will now be permitted to represent clients in various areas o
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