December 23, 1999
William G. Paul, Esq.
Crowe & Dunlevy
1800 Mid-Americas Tower
20 North Broadway Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK 73102-8273
ABA Multidisciplinary Practice
I appreciate the pressure you are under to reach some conclusion on MDP, but I wonder whether the states will be prepared to provide their suggestions by the New York meeting (other than to vote any proposal down or defer it).
While the ABA obviously wishes to speak for the profession, should other organizations and individuals be involved in the debate, e.g., could we identify a foundation to fund an analysis from a different perspective that might include advice by ethicists, legal historians and economists.
I believe most of our members when presented with facts and a reasonable forum for debate will agree that doing nothing as the only alternative before us may not be in the public’s interest. I am afraid, however, that unless the ABA can provide the leadership and is willing to take the risk of significant membership loss which may result from many of the current proposals, we may find ourselves mired in a sinkhole.
My own myopic view at this juncture is to continue to encourage the states to thoroughly air the issue. In the interim, I would pose the issue as: What is best for the public? – and I would not be adverse to debating tough questions such as whether the unauthorized practice of law can be reasonably defined (and enforced) when economic forces are bringing about rapid change. This debate would include consideration of competition, e.g., Can non lawyers provide traditional legal services as effectively and at lesser costs than we can? In what contexts are our core values of confidentiality etc. important to clients if nonlawyers provide traditional legal advice? Can the civil judicial system provide necessary relief for e.g., negligence by non lawyer advisors?
Leigh B. Middleditch, Jr.