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November 21, 2004

Damn you, ABA!

Thinking about passing the bar (since Mr. Poon just did that and all) forces me to face the fact that I, too, am striving to become a member of one of the nation's most antisocial cartels. This is not a source of joy; the ABA is not a friend of the good and the just, as far as I can tell. For one thing, it forces its members to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of joining, then appears to exist for no other reason than to ensure the majority of those members can charge their clients enough money to pay back the debt required to get that coveted membership in the first place. Yeah, the ABA sure is a great thing. The ABA calls itself “the largest voluntary professional association in the world.” What a joke! Sure, it's “voluntary” in the sense that no one is forced to join . . . unless you want to practice law. IIn fact, every state has an “unlawful practice of law” (UPL) statute that makes it a crime for unaccredited individuals to do the things that lawyers do. These UPL statutes are notoriously vague and broad and allow the Bar in each state to harass and criminalize people such as paralegals who may be so audacious as to try to help people accomplish simple tasks like getting a divorce or writing a will. Why would Bar Associations do this? To protect their monopoly and the unconscionable fees it allows them to charge. Oh yeah, membership is voluntary, all right. What else does the ABA do? It claims to provide “law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.” And there you have it. The ABA's law school accreditation helps police law schools to make sure they have nice buildings and overpaid faculty so that they can justify their extortionate tuition. It also requires that law school be three years, rather than the one or two that could easily be adequate. This forces many law students to start their career with so much debt they don't have time to think about anything other than making money, which is just fine w/the ABA because that's what it cares about too. I can't speak to the ABA's continuing legal education (CLE) requirements, but they sound incredibly hokey and rather than ensuring that lawyers remain qualified to practice it sounds like they ensure that hotels and conference planners will have plenty of customers. And I'm sure the ABA gets some nice fees every time someone wants to offer CLE credit for one its conference talks or whatever. Money, baby, that's the name of the ABA game. As for the ABA's other self-professed activities, I know that another word for most of the mail I get from the ABA and its affiliate is “junk,” not “information about the law.” And while I'm sure that the ABA offers some great programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, I'm also sure that we don't need the ABA for that; independent non-profits and local governments could probably take the best of those programs over and do a better job with them. Finally, the ABA's “initiatives to improve the legal system for the public” seem like a hypocritical joke. The ABA is responsible for legal services costing so much that huge swaths of the public can't afford them, and then it claims to be improving the legal system for the public? Yeah, right. Ok, so some sort of organization of law practitioners might be a good thing, but the ABA has gotten way, way, way out of control; if it ever served the public interest, I really can't see how it does now.

Posted 09:22 AM | Comments (4) | law general

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