Friday, 23 March 2012

A state of independence?

And so, The New York State Bar's Committee on Professional Ethics has decided that a member, a NY lawyer, working in NY, cannot practice for an out-of-state or foreign firm owned or managed by Non-Lawyers.

NYSB claims to be concerned for clients that non-lawyer ownership may lead to the independence of lawyers not being sufficiently protected.

This is at odds with the current American Bar Association's Commission on Ethics which is considering limited scope for non-lawyer ownership.  Something akin to Legal Disciplinary Practices (LDPs) here in England and Wales.  LDPs have been regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority since March 2009 and there has not been an instance of the question of independence being raised.

Whilst progress for those of us eager for the long awaited Brave New World remains painfully slow, the UK has lead the way in opening up the closed shop of legal services and inviting in new thinking and new approaches. 

I am the first to demand that new entrants need to be regulated with the same degree of rigor that lawyers are and this has to be an irreducible minimum. However, the reality is that regulation continues to heap burden on persons and companies alike and the current economic downturn (emanating from a US regulated mortgage industry) demands that new approaches to efficiency be brought to bear.

Lawyer managers and lawyer owners, whilst professionally and ethically sound, have not the experience nor training to drive these changes alone.  Those that embrace change, bring in outside help and/or money will thrive delivering better, cheaper and simpler legal solutions whilst maintaining or, maybe even, enhancing margins.

Those who don't admit the need for such help from other professions or maybe fear that margins of 30-50% (unheard of in the industries of a vast majority of their clients) may be eroded will seek to rail against such change.

So, are the NYSB really worried about independence of the profession and the potential erosion of ethics or, perhaps, is this a case of the members of the NYSB "ethics committee" looking after their own?

After all, are the turkeys that vote against Thanksgiving every year truly independent?

1 comment:

  1. Pull up the drawbridge and prepare the boiing oil. It will be a long war.