What If Anyone Could Give Legal Advice? (Part 5)

If we woke up tomorrow and found that all Unauthorized Practice of Law statutes (UPLs) had magically disappeared overnight, what would happen? I think the poor and middle class would most benefit, while the rich would be unaffected by the change.

But what would law schools do?

This is not the best time to be a law school dean—which is not to say that law schools deserve sympathy. Desperate to keep the money rolling, and refusing to stop chasing their tails seeking higher US News rankings, law schools have:

  • Lied about their admissions and graduate employment statistics,
  • Disgusted even their own faculty,
  • Spawned a legion of furious graduates for whom there were no jobs, and,
  • Attracted the negative attention of the U.S. Senate.

Law schools survive only because of the current licensure system. A three-year degree from an ABA-accredited school (which often means six-figure school loan debt) plus bar exam passage is the only path to licensure in most states. If UPLs (that restrict to licensed attorneys the giving of advice) disappeared, law schools would undergo wrenching changes.

While the top-tier schools would probably go about business as usual, all other schools would have to adapt (and quickly) or die. Instead of dictating to the legal services market what a legal-advice-giver is, and what education that person needs, the market (i.e., reality) would dictate to the law schools.

Only the top-tier schools could maintain the supposedly “scholarly” approach to legal education, with, for example, a year spent on the legal theories behind civil procedure and contracts. Law schools would have to turn their focus toward turning out graduates who would doff their caps and gowns already able to do legal work. A number of different types of programs would evolve quickly, few of which would require three years to complete. These programs would have to appeal to employers who would no longer have to hire JDs with licenses. The cost of tuition would be forced down. Inevitably, some law schools would simply disappear. And given the glut of new lawyers with few job prospects, that wouldn’t be a bad turn of events either.


  1. Avatar christopher says:

    It would probably make JDs quite a bit cheaper and easier to get, but as far as performance accountability, University of Phoenix and other for-profit colleges teach us to probably not hope for too much.

  2. Avatar christopher says:

    *for profit colleges selling credentials for less regulated areas of employment.

  3. Avatar Jerome Kowalski says:

    I am afraid that your prediction about law schools disappearing is not about to be realized. Even as jobs for lawyers – and certainly new graduates — continue to dwindle, law schools continue to sprout like mushrooms. See,

  4. Avatar Jerome Kowalski says:

    Of course, Sam. But the purpose for any process such as this is to understand the present and be prepared for the future. Accordingly, for example, in studying the past, we can safely conclude that law schools will not be shuttering any time soon.

    The topic we are all considering is the question of what is the result if bar admission is not required to deliver legal services? Well, as I opined, the market has effectively negated this requirement through the creation of Internet providers of legal services and offshore outsourcing. The takeaway here is a double whammy: a decline in demand for legal services compounded by new competition from lower priced providers of legal services. That explains some of the pain that traditional law firms are now experiencing. And, the lessons for tomorrow: In a very recent survey of chief legal officers, these CLO’s reported that they sent some 13% of their legal spend offshore and this number is likely to increase in 2012:

  5. Avatar Ion-Christopher DiMeglio says:

    Great, Andy – probably the best short discourse on the forbidden thing
    that I have heard. I am looking at the same phenomenon in medicine and
    even public transportation. The capacity of the market to operate has
    been jealously guarded by gate-keepers – the quintessence of whom are
    the establishment devil-attorneys and royal clients and assorted
    archetypes who are dependent on them – all deadly and legion. Justice
    needs a thorough shaking out.

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