Five by Five – Ambivalent Imbroglio

The next contributor is the anonymous law student author of Ambivalent Imbroglio with this post:


1. Close down Lexis and Westlaw and bring an immediate and permanent end to for-profit legal research. The law belongs to the people, not Westlaw. The services now provided by these companies should be done by public employees paid by tax dollars, then the cost of legal research and representation would drop for everyone. See also Carolyn Elefant’s suggestion #1. Same idea, mine just goes further; instead of having one free Lexis/Westlaw account per library or school, every computer w/internet access should have free, unlimited access to the publicly-funded, non-profit replacement of Lexis and Westlaw. This new database should also be searchable by Google and any other search engine.

2. Dissolve the ABA’s cartel-like stranglehold on law schools and legal education. This would involve eliminating current requirements in most states that you have three years of law school before you can even take the Bar. Perhaps we should eliminate the Bar exam, as well. See Scheherazade’s suggestion #1 . But even if some sort of qualifying credential is required to practice law, it should not require any sort of formal training. If there’s a Bar exam or something like it, and you can pass it without a day of formal education, you should be able to practice law.

3. Reduce firm salaries and billable hours requirements by half, across the board, while at the same time doubling salaries for public defenders, legal aid attorneys, non-profit attorneys and all other “public interest” practitioners. That wouldn’t even the playing field, but it would go a long way. See also Scheherazade’s suggestion #4.

4. Make lawyers accountable for the work they do. I really don’t know how to do this, but perhaps a google-able database of lawyers and the cases they’ve worked on would go some way to making attorneys accountable for the work they’ve done to protect big tobacco, to help Enron rip off its shareholders and the American public, and convince the Bush administration that it doesn’t have to follow the Geneva Convention.

5. Require law schools do more than pay lip service to public interest law. Again, I’m not sure how to do this, but law schools need not be factories for producing BigLaw drones. For a start, professors who make jokes to their classes about how rich attorneys can get by screwing their clients should be fired. Becoming a lawyer should not be about making money.

Combined, my suggestions should go a long way to taking the money incentive out of the practice of law. Making the best available legal research free to all will reduce the overall demand for attorneys—more people will be able to do their own research and represent themselves. Freeing law schools from the dictates of the ABA will allow new schools to spring up, and eliminating the law school requirement altogether will allow the number of lawyers to skyrocket. All that great competition (lawyers love competition, right?) will mean no one will get much money. And, since legal research will be free, lawyers will be able to charge much less there, as well. Reduced firm salaries will become a necessity; therefore, law students will be much less motivated to go to BigLaw anyway. Plus, since they won’t be paying such high tuition (because there are more law schools and because some people won’t go to school at all to become lawyers), students will graduate with much less (or no) debt, removing another reason many people now go to BigLaw. Finally, if lawyers are forced to make a public accounting of the work they do, we’ll have fewer people writing terror memos and defending companies that destroy the environment and public health and all those other bad things. The world will be a better place, and all because of these five things.

What was it Aerosmith said? Was it, “dream on”?

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