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Oklahoma Bar Association

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Pay Attention to Changes in Lawyer Regulation (September 1, 2020)

There was big news in lawyer regulation in August. I think it is fair to say that many lawyers would disapprove of many of these developments. Lawyers who have been studying Access to Justice issues for years will likely have a different point of view.

Bob Ambrogi has been covering the legal profession and Access to Justice issues for years on his LawSites blog and so, as is true for so many current issues, I recommend his analysis of these significant changes. I almost added “if you are interested” to that sentence. But if you are a lawyer serving individual consumer clients, you should be interested. Nothing similar is under consideration in Oklahoma, to my knowledge. All of these supreme court orders were the result of significant fact-finding processes that heard from many stakeholders and interested parties. We note that these are orders from state supreme courts. They obviously heard something persuasive.

First the Utah Supreme: In Historic Vote, Utah Supreme Court Approves Sweeping Changes in Legal Services Regulation.

That lead to a Guest Column response: Utah, We are Going to Need a Bigger Sandbox.

But some of Utah’s changes were upstaged by Arizona: Arizona Is First State To Eliminate Ban On Nonlawyer Ownership Of Law Firms. I haven’t digested the massive attachment to the 2 page opinion. But here’s an attention-grabber. Beginning in 2021, “The order also approves the licensing of nonlawyers as ‘legal paraprofessionals’ with authority to provide limited legal services to the public, including representing clients in court.” Lawyers will also be allowed to form entities with those who are not lawyers to provide legal services. That is a lot of change happening fast in Arizona.

Skeptics will say this will lead to law offices under Walmart, Costco or Big Four accounting firm branding providing standardized “cookie cutter” legal services. Proponents would say there is a lack of providers of simple, basic and affordable legal services. I’ll just say it is good to pay attention to these types of trends, especially with California also considering similar changes. We will keep looking to the west, it seems.