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Is There Such A Thing As An Affordable Lawyer?

Publication Date: 
May 30, 2014
Source: 
The Atlantic
Author: 
Michael Zuckerman

Professor Deborah Rhode comments on the lack of accessible legal services to low-income individuals for The Atlantic.

One of the most perplexing facts about our perplexing legal market is its failure to provide affordable services for just about anyone but rich people and corporations. In a democracy steeped in rule-of-law, justice-for-all platitudes, this lack of access to affordable legal help can feel worse than perplexing—it can feel like an outrage. Slowly, however, the system is evolving.

To think about the problem, consider the case of Ned Henry, the plaintiff in a landlord-tenant dispute that’s commonplace in most ways—and curious in one.

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Here Hadfield gestures at one academically popular explanation for why the legal market hasn’t liberalized enough to lower prices: that the organized bar doesn’t want it to. The Economist recently called this problem “the restrictive guild-like ownership structure of the business”; citing “parochial anxieties about ceding turf to nonlawyer competitors,” Stanford Law professor Deborah Rhode has suggested the bar’s policies amount, ultimately, to “economic protectionism.”