“I would write a shorter sermon, but once I start I get too lazy to stop.”
Today in the Prism Legal blog, I read an article titled “Rule against Outside Investment in Law Firms Stifles Innovation.” In the article, the author asserts that the “dangers” of allowing non-lawyer ownership in law firms are largely theoretical, but the “harm” in refusing non-lawyer ownership is “concrete and immediate,” including:
- Legal costs remain higher than they otherwise would be
- Lawyers cannot pursue professionally rewarding paths
- Investors miss an opportunity to earn a return
- Society continues to pay more for law that is possible or necessary
- Innovations these firms create cannot “trickle down” to conventionally owned law firm.
The author then suggests that those who support upholding the prohibition on non-lawyer ownership should bear the burden to provide justification as to why the prohibition on non-lawyer ownership prohibition should stand. Basically, he argues: “We should change. If you can’t give me good reasons why we shouldn’t change, I win.”
I accept his challenge, but with a caveat. I believe that the burden is on the party seeking change to demonstrate why it’s necessary. Neither his article, nor any of the other articles arguing from the similar position, provide logical arguments for change. As was reported in the Lawyerist: “I don’t see the advantage to law firms, unless something about law firms makes them incapable of changing their business models without non-lawyer investment and control. That’s a scary concept without a strong justification.”
I also believe that to allow non-lawyer ownership would fundamentally and irrevocably change the way legal services are provided (which, for many, is the real purpose behind deregulation). It is my position that the negative aspects of such a change have been largely ignored by those arguing for deregulation, and dramatically outweigh any potential benefits. (more…)
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