f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

August 29, 2003

US Outsiders and AU Insiders Have a Similar Message on Reforming Legal Discipline

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 10:31 pm

American reformers may have little power over the legal profession compared to the Attorney General of a major Australian province, but they have a very similar message:  public confidence in the legal system and the legal profession requires a legal disciplinary system that is effective and trusted.   Their articles are well worth reading:

 

First, Time for a Whupping: Across the Country, Attorney Discipline Systems Disgrace the Profession, from Legal Times (August 18, 2003), by James C. Turner and Suzanne M. Mishkin, of the legal reform group HALT.   Turner and Mishkin’s article concludes:



Remarkably, some opponents of reform seem to believe that by pushing ethics problems under the rug, they somehow protect the broader reputation of the profession. As David Jordan, chair of the New Hampshire Bar Association Public Protection Fund, admitted a few years ago, “[W]e don’t tell anyone about the fund. Half the board doesn’t want the public to know about the fund because it says that lawyers are crooks.”

But all who practice law have a shared interest in creating a discipline system that investigates promptly, deliberates openly, and weeds out unethical or incompetent attorneys. By addressing long-recognized failures, we can create a discipline system that engenders consumer trust and respect, rather than alienation and resentment. After three decades of neglect, can we do less?


Next, In law reform, consumers come first:   If the public is to have confidence in our legal system, changes are needed, by Robert Hulls, Attorney-General of Victoria, Australia (in The Age, Aug. 30, 2003) (via Overlawyered.com, Aug. 29, 2003).  Attorney-General Hulls writes in his op/ed piece:

 







As Attorney-General, I am interested in cost efficiencies in any new system, especially since improved efficiencies may lead to the freeing up of funds for access to justice initiatives such as the funding of legal aid.  But the drivers of my reforms must be the needs of consumers and the maintenance of an accessible and robust justice system.


Victorians place considerable trust in their lawyers, and lawyers have a responsibility to ensure that trust is not abused. If that trust is abused it is essential that lawyers, like all professionals, are held accountable to the public.


This is why the new legal regulatory system has been carefully crafted to give Victorians confidence in a system that will be transparent, accountable, efficient, and address the alleged conflicts of interest.


Both Hulls and HALT want a disciplinary system that is no longer controlled by the profession.  As we posted on Aug. 4, 2003, such reforms are expected to be adopted in the UK in the very near future.

eLawyer Blog on Unbundling Excuses

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 8:41 pm

Check out Jerry Lawson’s eLawyerBlog posting on “Unbundling & Disclaimers” (08-29-03).  It’s perfect for a holiday weekend, ’cause there’s nothing left for me to say.


 

Skeptical About Motives When Lawyers Stop Taking Malpractice Cases

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 3:31 pm

Brian Peterson’s Weblog has reported that a “W.Va. law firm stops taking cases for malpractice” as a direct result of new caps on non-economic damages (pointing to an article in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel  (by Evan Bevins, Aug. 25, 2003).

 

The firm in question notes that malpractice suits are expensive to bring, and “the new law makes it harder to get a ‘fair verdict’ for clients.”   Further down in PN&S article is another explanation: 


“The firm’s financial considerations played a part in the decision, [its spokesman] said, just as decreasing fees might cause a doctor to stop performing a certain procedure.  ‘That does enter into it, just like any other decision,’ he said.”

The Editor of this blawg is on vacation, but his cousin skepticalEsq just stopped by and left the following Comment:



Let me see if I understand this:  Just when “fair verdicts” will be especially hard and victims need devoted p/i lawyers more than ever to fight for every penny they deserve, firms are deciding to stop taking malpractice cases due to “financial considerations” like “decreasing fees.”   Seems to me, the Trial Lawyers’ Association needs to do a little better spin control and pr training within its own ranks, before the public starts to think that 25% of the first half million dollars in non-economic damages is just too trifling an amount to attract a good p/i lawyer.  We wouldn’t want Americans to get unduly cynical about their lawyers.

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