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Interstate law practice, Multijurisdictional lawyering, Unauthorized interstate practice, Unlicensed lawyers


Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility | Legal Profession


The quiet clubbiness that once characterized the practice of law in the United States is rapidly disappearing as new realities announce their clamorous arrival. Evaporating at a great rate—judging speed of change in historical terms—are many traditionally accepted and functionally important features of the legal profession of another day. Disappearing or dead are such sturdy former fixtures as the exclusivity of traditional bar self-policing. Also gone is the at-one-time widely acknowledged hegemony of the American Bar Association as the exclusive source of lawyer code pronouncements on lawyer disciplinary regulation. Courts, under the thrall of bar associations, at one time claimed the exclusive right to regulate lawyers. Although one still finds the rhetoric of judicial exclusivity, the reality is that lawyer regulation is increasingly found in the form of legislation or administrative regulation, some of which is sought out by lawyer organizations themselves. Efforts of an older time to develop a strong and widely shared moral sense across the professional community seem to have been abandoned as a bar project, particularly in metropolitan areas. The bar seems to have retreated, if sometimes reluctantly, from activities that seemed at the time, and which seem now, to be aimed more at protecting lawyer self-interest rather than at protecting clients or the public.

Some, but hardly all, of the transformations accompanying the rapid pace of change in the American legal profession are applaudable developments. Wearing my own sentiments on my sleeve (and I suspect I am not alone), I do not regret the passing over of such dysfunctional features of the traditional bar, such as the conspiracy of silence, under which lawyers tacitly agreed not to sue or serve as expert witness against other lawyers; the non-enforcement of lawyer codes -- with the trendy code intended merely to serve, as one media critic has put it, as "lip service to our better selves"; and hypocritical differentiation in such matters as bar discipline (i.e. winking at the faults of lawyers in large firms, while focusing on largely victimless offenses, such as advertising and solicitation by small-time practitioners); and character determinations in bar-admission committees that seemed to have a class, race, or gender-based bias.

Publication Citation

Published in: South Texas Law Review, vol. 36, no. 3 (November 1995).