To compare the impact of self-regulation on the corporate and retail legal segments is to invite the conclusion that lawyers operate under two sets of rules. This is especially so with respect to unauthorized practice. Last week’s post on Self-Regulation and Retail Law highlighted the vague—sometimes non-existent– standards by which “the practice of law” and, conversely, “unauthorized practice” is determined. Retail attorneys, not disgruntled clients, are the usual whistleblower, and legal service providers are the target, even if no harm has been caused to the client.
It’s another story in the corporate arena. Lawyers are rarely whistleblowers here, nor do corporate clients seem to be concerned about unauthorized practice even though they routinely work with service providers who might sometimes “push the envelope.” So why are things so different in this segment of the market? After all, “Lincoln Lawyers” (those who practice out of a car as Matthew McConaughey portrayed on screen) have to pass the same Bar Exam as their White Shoe brethren. These lawyers should—especially for something as central to legal practice as what it means to engage in the practice of law—be subject to the same regulatory and ethical standards as corporate lawyers. Leona Helmsley’s infamous take on taxes comes to mind: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” And so it seems with unauthorized practice and corporate lawyers; they and the service providers who increasingly work with—or instead of them—are rarely flagged for it. Why not? [Read more…]