Reform or Professional Responsibility as Usual

Whither the Institutions of Regulation and Discipline?

In this article, the author predicts five institutional changes in the realm of Professional Responsibility that are likely to occur in the twenty-first century. First, he suggests that the enforcement of professional ethics will likely become more nationalized. Traditionally, each state has been responsible for enacting and enforcing its own ethic rules. However, with the increase of national, multistate, and international practice, lawyers should expect a more uniform system of professional regulation in the future and a greater degree of negotiation among the states and the federal government concerning the types of regulation that are appropriate.Second, the author suggests that disciplinary systems likely will become more transparent. Traditionally, policy making in the disciplinary process and information regarding enforcement have been kept from public scrutiny. Opening the process would help develop respect for the rules and would improve enforcement techniques.Third, he suggests that local bar associations will reevaluate the functions they perform and will acknowledge the multiplicity of the goals they seek to achieve. In the process, they will recognize that these goals are sometimes inconsistent. The long-term result will be that local bars will rely more on other regulators to restrain lawyer misconduct. They will shift their priorities towards functions, including lawyer assistance, that bar associations are uniquely suited to fulfilling.Fourth, the author predicts changes in the licensing and admission of lawyers. Traditionally, all lawyers have been treated the same for purposes of admission, regulation, and discipline. In the future, it is likely that a system of specialty examination and licensing will provide official methods of differentiating among lawyers.At the same time, the author suggests that the definition of the practice of law will result in a decrease in some forms of licensing. Greater recognition of the interrelationship between legal and nonlegal work will open the door to negotiation among the professions regarding who may provide services tangential to law. Opening the door to lay-providers may also be a necessary reaction to the growing, unsatisfied need of the poor and middle classes for law-related services.

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