The OPIA Blog

Do you need to be a lawyer to give legal advice?

In this recent Washington Post op-ed by Gillian Hadfield, Sidley Austin Visiting Professor of Law at HLS, Hadfield contends that other countries may have it right in the way legal advice is delivered. Rather than solely being provided by attorneys, Hadfield contends that advice can be more effective (and has proven to be more effective in other countries) when it comes from alternate sources. As she explains, “(I)n other countries, consumer and community organizations can provide legal services, as can unions and other workplace groups. Starting next year in England, so too can large companies such as Tesco, the European equivalent of Wal-Mart. There are online subscriber services giving legal advice on employment or consumer problems. The legal equivalent of TurboTax is probably just around the corner, if not already on British computer screens.”

The U.S., however, strictly regulates the legal market, making it difficult (and expensive) for the poor to obtain any sort of legal service. Although there are signs pointing to an effort to look at this issue (Haldfield cites Professor Laurence Tribe’s appointment to the DOJ in an effort to look at legal access for the poor), it is uncertain if this will lead to a loosening of restrictions in the legal marketplace, an expansion of legal services to the poor, or status quo.