Regulatory controls and not-so-free markets

Not just doctors but all sorts of students and professionals scrambled to figure out how to deal with their high-stakes exam during the pandemic. Lawyers were no exception. Some states had new lawyers take the bar remotely. But a few states just got rid of it altogether and allowed diplomas from accredited schools to stand on their own.

NPR’s Planet Money, “Most People Can’t Afford Legal Help. 1 Reformer Wants To Change That” is an interesting quick discussion of slowly changing legal regulations that has plenty of parallels with medicine:

The National Conference of Bar Examiners, which helps states administer the bar, argues that the bar remains important in protecting the public. “Every high-stakes profession, including engineering, medicine, aviation, and others, relies on licensure to ensure that practitioners meet minimum standards of fundamental competency, and the practice of law is no exception,” the organization said in a statement.

But Gillian Hadfield, a law professor and economist at the University of Toronto, argues there’s no evidence that the bar actually protects the public. She thinks not only it is time we reevaluate use of the bar exam — it’s time to completely revamp how we regulate the practice of law in the United States.

The bar exam, she says, is one part of a broader system that raises the cost of legal services and contributes to an “access to justice crisis” in the United States. “My estimate is well over 80% of Americans who need legal help can’t get it because it’s too expensive,” Hadfield says. “And the main reason for that is a crazy regulatory system. The bar exam is part of that.”

It’s kinda like cafe baristas getting control of the coffee market by using the regulatory system to prevent restaurants, Keurig machines, and gas stations from providing you coffee. They’re like, “It’s for your safety! You could get burned or poisoned! The coffee will be worse!” Meanwhile, a cup of coffee costs $20.

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