Academic journal article The University of Memphis Law Review

Embracing Our Public Purpose: A Value-Based Lawyer-Licensing Model

Academic journal article The University of Memphis Law Review

Embracing Our Public Purpose: A Value-Based Lawyer-Licensing Model

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

As innovation disrupts the legal services industry,1 lawyerlicensing entities must adapt to continue to make the best decisions about admission requirements and standards in a rapidly changing professional landscape. In a broader context, the legal services industry must answer the question of who-either within or outside the profession-will provide legal services in this changing landscape. Lawyer-licensing entities, as key decision makers,2 will be in a better position to respond if they have evaluated their own licensing scheme and organizational values using a model that incorporates the legal profession's core values. That model would value clarity, accessibility, transparency, and fairness, as well as endorse recommended practices that promote these core values. In constructing such a model, this Article allows lawyer-licensing entities across jurisdictions to assess their current practices and learn about other jurisdictional practices with high efficacy.

Creating a value-based model sets the stage for further inquiry about the trajectory of the licensing function within the larger scheme of lawyer self-regulation and admission to the profession. To retain the privilege of self-regulation,3 the legal profession, as a group, must act in a way that is democratically sound both in composition and action. Lawyer-licensing entities that fall far short of such a theoretical model risk losing their democratic legitimacy and the public trust necessary for their continued existence as an integral part of a selfregulated profession.

This Article aims to enable lawyer-licensing entities to evolve by applying practices and strategies in the adoption of a culture of engagement with the public, which will allow these entities to broaden their own purpose in alignment with the highest purposes of the legal profession, thus allowing these entities to help maintain the privilege of self-regulation.

Some professions come and go. Lamplighters and log-drivers are no longer part of the labor force.4 But law is here to stay, because it serves an essential public purpose. Accordingly, lawyers, for the time being, maintain a presence within the professional service market.5 Importantly, lawyers have always been the foot soldiers who defend against governmental abuse of power.6 As such, lawyers hold significant responsibility in maintaining our democratic society.7 But the professional landscape has shifted, and the question of who will provide legal services demands attention, because pressure continues to mount from those outside the profession to provide services that have for decades been reserved for licensed lawyers.8 Lawyerlicensing entities, as the gatekeepers of the profession, play a pivotal role in determining who becomes a licensed lawyer. The questions of who receives a law license and how the jurisdiction administers the licensing process remain important as innovation continues to disrupt the legal services industry.9

The ubiquity of information and consumers' ever-increasing ability to access it have reshaped the professional landscape of law. Technology and globalization also contribute to the heightened pressure on the legal profession to respond to consumer demands for changes in the delivery of legal services.10 Social media and internet resources that offer more convenient vehicles for information attainment and distribution have fostered a culture of consumer accessto-information, changing consumers' abilities to obtain information and expectations for the delivery of professional services.11 Consumers' ability to obtain and distribute information quickly and across geographic borders affects the legal profession in terms of lawyers' marketing and delivery of legal services, as well as consumers accessing such services.12 The American Bar Association ("ABA") devotes an entire website page to addressing social media as it relates to the legal profession.13 The rise of the internet and social media have changed the way we structure our lives, and structures within the legal profession must adapt. …

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