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Lawyers Are Skeptical of ABA's Law Firm Biz Restructuring Proposals

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on May 11, 2016 3:57 PM

A bevy of solo attorneys recently responded to the American Bar Association's invite to comment on the proposal to allow non-lawyer investing in law firms. Forty-three individuals submitted their comments: only one thought it was a good idea.

Now that may sound like good new for those opposed, but a growing number of advocates claim that the changes simply mark the inevitable.

Lawyers Are Skeptical, to Say the Least

As mentioned above, only one out of the 43 responding lawyers or law students who decided to write in a response to ABA's invitation thought it was a good idea that the rules be relaxed. Of course, we must remind ourselves that this response rate might not be representative of the entire pool of lawyers and students. But it is striking to see of those who decided to invest the time to respond, an overwhelming majority remain skeptical of the proposed changes.

They must really really hate this proposal. Could it be that other lawyers who don't feel as strongly go even further? As in, they just don't care?

Resistance Is Futile

Texas lawyer Claude Ducloux jumped in to offer his opinion. His view is that relaxation of the laws will open the doors for more jobs to underemployed attorneys. Continued opposition would be tantamount to resisting the inevitable tidal wave of legal industry changes. A good way to staunch the bleeding would be to allow non-lawyer investment into firms. Only in that way can legal services reach those in the middle of the demographic extremes.

But Why the Resistance?

It appears that the primary motivating factor for attorneys has to do with potential conflicts of interest. Even the ABA section on tort, trial, and insurance practice wrote in a tone not conducive to change: "The core value of the independence of the profession would be severely challenged by the dual allegiances owed to clients and demanded by investors, shareholders and managers. No man (or) woman can serve two masters."

The fact is that most of the legal profession is resistant to the proposed changes -- as it has been in the past. No shortage of opinions on this topic that seems to rear its head every few years. So even if the head of this hydra gets chopped off, don't worry. Another will grow right back.

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