Why can’t lawyers be more like doctors? A form of that question — actually more like, ‘Why can’t the legal profession operate more like the medical profession?’ — is asked by law and economics professor Gillian K. Hadfield in this podcast. (Click below to listen or download.)
The University of Southern California professor, whose Research Essay “Legal Services Wanted; Lawyers Need Not Apply” in the July-August edition of Miller-McCune magazine covered that question and others, argues that there’s a huge and genuine demand for legal services in the United States, but not all of that service need be rendered by expensive and overqualified attorneys.
Citing the example of simple legal services such as helping someone to fill out forms, "The U.S. has a particularly restrictive idea about who can do those things,” she says. “We would be better off if we would allow a much wider variety of people to do that.”
Hadfield sees possible reform of the legal system in the U.S. using the example of less restrictive systems like those in the United Kingdom and Canada. If it’s going to happen, she walks through some possible methods that could be employed, from internal reform from the legal profession to state or federal regulation.
But lawyers shouldn’t be worried. A good analogy for what the future of the law might look like is the medical profession. We still need doctors and surgeons, but there are also nurse practitioners, registered nurses, therapists, chiropractors and so on.
“It’s less about having unlicensed people practicing conventional law and more about having newly trained, differently trained types of people, differently regulated types of people, and differently structured types of entities providing legal assistance,” Hadfield says. “Really, the existing systems we have aren’t coming up with better ways of serving legal demand, and legal demand is exploding.”