|Title||Accessibility of Legal Services in the United States: Lawyer Regulation by Whom, to What End?|
While most people care about having access to legal services when they need them few are interested in how legal services are regulated. It is considered a technical subject best left to those who actually care, like lawyers themselves. That is what has happened in the United States—the regulation of legal services has been left to a small number of lawyers who make decisions for the entire country about how legal services can—and, especially, cannot—be delivered. They do this in the absence of public accountability or transparency and in the wake of near total abdication by state authorities who, on paper, actually have regulatory power. The result? As regards “accessible and affordable civil justice,” the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index ranks the US 96th of 113 countries. Countries like Afghanistan, Belarus, El Salvador, Russia and Uganda are ranked higher. Those countries provide better access to civil justice than the United States. The inability of many, if not most, people in the US to enforce their rights raises serious questions about the legitimacy of the country’s legal system as well as rule of law and democracy itself. In contrast, Australia ranks 40th, Canada 47th, the UK 60th. While not perfect, they are doing something right. By comparing them to the US, this research exposes the direct link between how legal services are regulated and how people are—and are not—able to access those services. This research demonstrates how the problems plaguing legal services in the United States can be addressed only by radical changes: to the rules that govern how legal services may be delivered, to who has the power to make those rules, and, ultimately, to the country’s entire regulatory environment. This research is based upon an extensive review of both primary and secondary materials and upon 65 in-depth interviews conducted with those who have created, are managing, are employees of, and/or have invested in alternative legal service providers in England & Wales, Australia, Canada, and the District of Columbia, and the people who regulate them.