Liberty and the Practice of Law


A recent 2 Paragraphs column discussed government protectionism by requiring people to be licensed before they may engage in such practices as teeth-whitening, hair braiding, selling of coffins or child care. The result of this protectionism is to restrain people, mostly those newly entering the work force, from competing with more established interests, such as licensed dentists, barbers, morticians and child-care centers. Then the column went on to state that the more appropriate system is to allow anyone to enter those fields, as long as they are privately bonded. These bonding/insurance companies would enforce minimum standards and competency levels, and insure that resources would be available in the event of malpractice. Of course, the more established interests would be free to advertise about their “superior training and abilities,” etc., but this approach would leave the customer to choose whose services to engage, and what price to pay.

But probably the biggest protectionism for me and my fellow attorneys: the State Bar of California. Realistically there are many areas in the practice of law that could be performed by people who have not graduated from law school, or passed the bar examination. Some examples are preparing forms for or giving advice about simple wills, small claims court actions, immigration laws, taxes, worker’s compensation benefits, divorces and many more. The secret is for those providers to “know when they don’t know” an issue. And that is where the private bonding companies could assist. Candidly, when I graduated from law school and passed the bar examination, in many ways I was far less competent to practice law than many journeymen who had developed expertise in various specialized areas. So requiring that all legal practitioners be insured would in many ways increase the quality of the practice of law, drastically reduce the price, and make legal assistance much more available to everyone. As such, this would be yet another example of the general benefits of Liberty in Action!

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President