Rethinking & Redesigning Attorney Regulation

Wednesday I’m on a panel that is part of the VBA’s Annual Meeting.  Laura Wilson, Ian Carleton, and I will present Wellness Tips for Legal Employers.  Laura and Ian co-chaired the Legal Employers Committee of the Vermont Commission on the Well-Being of the Legal Profession.  Their committee’s recommendations are fantastic and will serve as the outline for our seminar.

Anyhow, there was a time when a CLE on attorney wellness was big news.  Not anymore.  These days wellness is part of the Vermont legal profession. Thank goodness.  Alas, I’ve not been as successful gaining traction on reforming the way that we regulate lawyers.

In May 2016, I posted as series of blogs on Alternative Business Structures (ABS).  My goal was to spark debate over whether to amend Rule 5.4 of the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct to drop the prohibition on nonlawyer ownership of and investment in law firms.  It didn’t take.

But now I’m back!


Nationally, “reregulation” is a movement that aims to rethink attorney regulation.   The goal is to consider whether the current regulatory structure unnecessarily limits both innovation and access to legal services.  Stated differently, are there regulatory changes to be made that will increase access to legal services without compromising consumer protection?

Several groups are leading the discussion.  One is the Institute for the Advancement of American Legal System. I’ve had the good fortune to get to know some of the folks at IAALS through their Unlocking Legal Regulation project.  Another is the American Bar Association’s Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services.  The committee’s current chair is none other than Vermont’s own Fritz Langrock.

Earlier this year, IAALS, the Delivery Services Committee, and others started the Redesigning Legal Speaker Series.  The series provides “a forum to learn about and discuss the regulatory changes underway, the challenges they face, and the opportunities they provide.”  To date, the series has included:

So far, the series has been terrific.  The seminars provide an easy introduction to the reregulation discussion.  Next week the series risks jumping the shark: the organizers decided to include me on the panel tasked with discussing Lawyer UPL: Has it Jumped the SharkAnyhow, I intend to use the series as a road map to drive discussion in Vermont.

For now, practicing lawyers might be wondering “Mike, consumer protection and access to legal services are great, but what’s in it for me?”

Good question.  Here’s my answer.

Arizona was the first state to repeal the ethical prohibition on nonlawyer ownership.  In a recent edition of GPSolo Magazine, Arizona Supreme Court Justice Anne Zimmer shared Regulatory Reform: What’s in it for me?  It’s worth a read. As is an article that ran in the same issue.  Andrew Arruda’s Let’s Stop Cutting Off Our Noses: How Reregulation Benefits Lawyers.

In closing, today’s post is but a (re)-opening salvo.  This time, I’m not going to give up.

Stay tuned.