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

February 15, 2004

not law, but

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 9:23 pm

Marcia Oddi at the Indiana Law Blog often finds non-legal stories worthy of perusal (especially on frigid winter nights, when one’s avoiding writing a difficult post).  She did today, with a blurb about barns wilting away as tobacco fades in America.

mouse reading  Marci usually starts such posts with “Not Law But Interesting.”  I must confess that I often want to start my posts with Not Interesting, But Law.

P.S.  What’s an Indiana Gal doing reading that East-Coasty radical rag called the Washington Post?

Bankruptcy and Bar Admission – A Proposal

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 4:17 pm

I’m still finding it difficult to understand why egregious financial irresponsibility by a bar applicant is irrelevant to his or her fitness to be a lawyer, fiduciary and officer of the court.  So, I’ve tried to draft a question for bar applications that gets at the issue of financial irresponsibility without overly intruding on privacy or being excessively moralistic — and, without suggesting that every bankruptcy indicates irresponsibility.  (See this post, and that one for background; and contrast with this stuff.)  

Further Update (02-15-04 at 9 PM):  See Scheherazade‘s very thoughtful Let’s Stop Picking On David, for a discussion not only of the bankruptcy issue but of the wider one of using subjective or unnecessary judgments to keep people out of the legal profession, and the narrower one of my personality type.  I think two friends can learn a lot when they disagree (or think they do) on a topic and actually listen to each other.  Thanks, Sherry. 

Bar applications may already treat this topic (my memory fails and my files are absent, so assistance is welcome), and some help with the technical phraseology is probably necessary, but how about asking a question like this:


1) Have you ever petitioned for and been denied the dissolution of your debts in bankruptcy?  If so, explain the circumstances below.

2) a. Have you, within the past ____ years, sought bankruptcy protection or been forced into bankruptcy? 

    b. If so, and the total debts involved were in excess of $_________, explain the circumstances below.

quill pen  Seven years might make sense for the first filter, and perhaps $10,000 for the second.  It seems to me that reasonable minds could disagree on how to fill in the blanks to create a reasonably-tailored filter, or when to follow-up, or possible repercussions.  Totally ignoring the issue of financial responsibility, however, offers clients and the profession too little protection.  What do you think?

  • A wise friend has written with “privacy concerns.”  Bankruptcy is already a matter of public record, of course.  Further, no one has suggested to me that bar applications should not ask about such judicial history as judgments against the applicant and pending matters where he or she is a party.  Since privacy is always a balancing issue, I do not believe the intrusion here is undue considering the other interests being protected. 

For-Profit Self Help Chain Invades NYC

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 12:00 pm

The New York Times has an article today about a plan to open 45 storefront, for-profit, legal self-help offices in New York City.  The centers would be part of a major expansion by We the People Forms and Service Centers USA, and its CEO Ira T. Distenfeld.  The company has had problems in many states with bar efforts to block their services — by claiming they constitute the unauthorized practice of law — but has so far fought off 26 of 29 lawsuits.  It “helps people fill out legal forms for bankruptcies, wills, incorporations, uncontested divorces and the like for as little as $199.”  (NYT, Moving in on New York Lawyers, 02-15-04; thanks to Howard for the perma-link)


fife drum   Here’s a taste of the story from the NYT article:

  • “Twenty-six of the lawsuits have been dismissed or have been won by We the People, and it is starting to gain grudging acceptance in law circles. And now it has a business ally who may help it win even greater respectability: Rudolph W. Giuliani.” [through his consulting firm, Giulini Partners] 

  • “‘They tout themselves as a document-typing service,’ said William Anaya, a Chicago lawyer who represents the Illinois State Bar Association in the case. ‘It’s our position that they are more than that. They are making a profit on the marginal practice of law, putting clients at risk.'”

  • ‘Mr. Distenfield says he thinks he knows why opponents may go to such lengths. ‘Because of us, some lawyers are Maytag repairmen waiting for their phone to ring,’ he said. ‘We’re the only large company out there that offers affordable legal access to the underserved.'”

  • “[WtP attorney Jason E.] Searns also cited a recent public opinion letter issued by the Federal Trade Commission and endorsed by the Justice Department that criticizes the American Bar Association’s definition of practicing law as overly restrictive. The letter, he said, urges a balance between protecting consumers and giving them access to alternative forms of legal assistance.”

Find the FTC/DOJ Statement here, and much more on our UPL resource page.  The bar needs this competitive spur and the People need competent service options that are affordable. .

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