Document Type



Law and Society | Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility | Legal Profession


The legal profession’s control of much of the market for legal services is justified by the claim that only licensed lawyers can effectively and ethically represent clients. This article challenges that claim. A review of a number of studies suggests that experienced nonlawyers can provide competent legal services in certain contexts and in some cases, can seemingly do so as effectively as lawyers. There is also little evidence that lawyers’ legal training, the bar admission requirements, or lawyers’ psychological characteristics make them more trustworthy than nonlawyer legal services providers. The article considers some recent initiatives, such as Washington’s approval of Limited License Legal Technicians, to allow qualified nonlawyers to provide certain legal services. It concludes that even this initiative does not go far enough. At a time when so many individuals cannot afford to hire a lawyer, the public would be better served if more nonlawyer representatives — who were subject to educational and licensing requirements — could provide more legal services to the public.