The Increasing Irrelevance of Lawyers

Learning to love legal technicians

According to the Lawyerist blog, Minnesota is considering joining Washington in allowing legal practice by “Limited License Legal Technicians,” or LLLTs.*

Here’s how the Washington State Bar Association describes LLLTs:

Legal Technicians, also known as Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLT), are trained and licensed to advise and assist people going through divorce, child custody and other family law matters in Washington. Think of them like nurse practitioners, who can treat patients and prescribe medication like a doctor. Licensed Legal Technicians bring a similar option to the legal world, making legal services more accessible to people who can’t afford an attorney. While they cannot represent clients in court, Legal Technicians are able to consult and advise, complete and file necessary court documents, help with court scheduling and support a client in navigating the often confusing maze of the legal system.

This is, in my view, a wonderful development for the legal system, and I hope it continues to catch on.

Lawyers — who like every other profession are loathe to give up on their cartel — are increasingly becoming irrelevant. This is because legal education is increasingly irrelevant. Consider:

  • Most of a what lawyers study in law school has little, if any, relevance to the real-world practice of law.
  • In terms of real-world practice, I learned more useful information in two months of studying for the Bar Exam than in three years of law school.
  • Most of what lawyers do on a day-to-day basis does not require a law degree.

The main purpose of law school is as an obstacle to restrict entry into the profession, in order to keep the prestige of a law degree high, the supply of lawyers low, and the cost of legal services high.**

The monolithic structure of the legal profession is crumbling, as DIY legal services such as LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer compete with law firms, and as states begin to permit legal practice by non-lawyer practitioners. And I think this is a good thing for people and for the legal system in general.

* Seriously? They couldn’t come up with a better name or acronym? Hopefuly the phrase “LTs” catches on, just like “NPs” for nurse practitioners.

** This ignores the academic value of law school, which is high. In terms of understanding how the “system” works in this country, law school was incredibly valuable.