This Friday at 4 PM, I will be on a panel on reform of the licensing system for lawyers at the University of Washington School of Law, in Seattle. I will be joined by Paula Littlewood, Executive Director of the Washington State Bar Association, and University of Washington law professor Thomas Andrews. The panel is sponsored by the University of Washington Federalist Society and – I believe – the Washington State Bar Association.
I will argue, as I have previously at the VC, that the public interest would be best served by deregulating the licensing system, including abolition of the bar exam and elimination of the requirement that lawyers must attend three years of law school. At the very least, I will explain, we should allow people to enter the bar after “reading law” or apprenticing with a current practitioner, as was common in the 19th and early twentieth century (this is how Abraham Lincoln became a lawyer, among many others). Such reforms can drive down the cost of legal services for consumers and also make it possible for people to enter the legal profession without a vast expenditure of time and money. It will, of course, be important for consumers to have information available to them about the quality of legal practitioners. But that can be done in many different ways, without perpetuating today’s guild-like licensing system.