Saturday 23 June 2018

How to make legal services more affordable, and feed the masses of unemployed law graduates ...

How to actually open up the legal profession, and legal services.

I often hear the same suggestions, which just don't work, when it comes to making legal services more accessible. We are told we need more government intervention, more tariffs and rules.

I have something radical to suggest: less rules.

If you want more people to do something with their LLB, give them practical trade training, and let them practise straight away. Get rid of articles of clerkship. Americans do well without it, and the market is much better at establishing standards than statutes and laws are.

Get rid of comparitive advertising rules, in fact, let attorneys advertise their prices, let them do discounts, and vouchers. Let them pay marketing agencies to get them clients. Let them share offices and resources and fees. Let them have lay shareholders, even. These things have not destroyed the medical profession. If anything, medical services are more available as a result.

In any market, heavy regulations favour the status quo and push out new competition. In a place like America, anyone can get legal services.

Imagine if the so called street advocates and attorneys who struggle, instead of competing with everyone else for the same upper middle class business, were allowed to charge say R 20.00 an hour instead of the fees they have to charge. Many could survive in law, on that even. It would open legal services up. Township barbers in no way reduce the quality of service found in a top hair salon. What they do is give people hair care at a price they are prepared to pay for the quality and service they want.

What would happen if we got rid of undercharging prohibitions? People who want the current levels of service would still pay for them. And those in up market suburbs or near big businesses would still have the same clients. However, just as private schools are offering very cheap fees for the poor, lawyers could then compete with legal aid. Small debts, like R 5000.00 would also become more affordable to litigate, opening up legal services for smaller debts.

I would love to see a world where free market capitalism, and all its advertising and voluntary fee arrangements and market regulations could bring legal services to everyone, and allow the other 75% to make money from the legal degree they studied. Don't have own transport? No trouble if you work for yourself and are prepared to take a taxi or bus to court. Don't speak Tswana or Afrikaans? That is fine if you are working for yourself and your clients speak Zulu or English.

Currently, we are heading in the exact opposite direction. It does not have to be that way. So much of the poverty we see among LLB graduates is the direct result of law and regulations. Let's educate the powers that be to let the market regulate our services. It can work.

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