Sunday, May 19, 2013

What the truck?

England is known the world over for its legal system, replete with tradition and prestige.  Wigs and robes in court - it doesn't come much more "we're not changing with the times!" than that.

Or does it.

Turns out that a trucking company, Eddie Stobart, is bidding for contracts to provide legal aid services, much to the chagrin of traditional law firms that typically provide such services.

Read all about here.

Just to be clear, though, we're not talking about truck drivers offering legal services. From what I can gather, we're talking about a law firm that is a subsidiary of Eddie Stobart, Stobart Barristers, which has very little to do with Eddie Stobart.

But to hear the complaints from the traditional lawyers who are trying to protect their high fees, you'd think that Stobart Barristers was proposing that the poor should be represented in court by truckers who are known by "CB handles" like "Slippery Jim" and "Madcat", and who would replace the horsehair wigs with those trucker hats that your grandfather wears sometimes.

"That's a big 10-4, judge".

Here's some quotes from the article, and there's plenty more articles out there on this matter too:

The row within the legal profession over the plans is intensifying. The head of Stobart Barristers has described traditional law firms who rely on legal aid as "'wounded animals waiting to die" and accused rival lawyers of sending his firm messages urging it to "Truck Off".
 He's right. Traditional law firms are wasteful, slow, and expensive. Where legal aid money is concerned, economy should be the number one priority; providing the most people with adequate services, rather than providing a select few with premium services.  It's the same over here.  Traditional law firms are wasteful and serve not for the benefit of clients, but partners' wallets.  And little anonymous attacks from those trying to protect their incomes?  Sounds like law professor tactics.

[Said Trevor Howarth, legal director at Stobart,] "We at Stobart are well known for taking out the waste and the waste here is the duplication of solicitors going to the courtroom. At the moment there are 1,600 legal aid firms; in future there will be 400. At Stobart, we wouldn't use 10 trucks to deliver one product."

Again, correct. Law firms are just so damn inefficient.  Hourly billing, overstaffed, making problems where none exist. It's a broken system, both here in the US and over there in the UK by the sound of things.

On removing a defendant's right to choose their solicitor, Howarth said: "I don't think the lack of choice is damaging. [People are not] entitled to access justice with an open cheque. No one is stopping them paying for their own choice of solicitor."
Common sense, and to be clear, he's talking about a defendant who is generally in the lowest court and charged with a minor offense, and whose legal fees are being footed by the taxpayer.  Nobody is talking about removing anyone's choice of legal representation if they can afford to pay for it themselves.  But don't expect lawyers to agree.  In fact, expect them to tell lies to protect their business (remind you of law professors perhaps?):
Paul Harris, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association, warned that the quality of legal representation would decline. "How is anyone facing serious criminal allegations going to feel being represented by a haulage company?" he asked.
Ah, there we go.  The deliberate misrepresentation, the lie, designed to align the stupid or lazy with his cause. Circulate the myth that this change will mean your lawyer will have dirt under his fingernails and an STD from a truckstop hooker, and of course nobody wants this. His income will be saved, and who gives a damn about all the defendants who get no representation because there's no money left.  Of course, in reality Stobart Barristers is staffed by real lawyers, with real training, just like every other law firm.

While this interesting little story has lots of relevance to us over in the US, it's also useful for drawing parallels with our system of legal education. Our 200 schools, all offering a three year program, ultimately paid for by the taxpayers in many cases, are a prime example of using ten trucks to deliver one product.

We need 100 schools, each offering a two year program, at a quarter of the current cost.  And that's being generous.  But try to make such common sense changes, and you're met with attacks and lies from the legal education establishment.  Untruths about how the public will suffer, how standards will drop, how the entire legal system as we know it will crumble into a world where truck drivers are representing people in court and prestigious lawyers are forced to dirty their eyes by even looking at such vile creatures.  Of course nobody wants reform when law professors circulate such lies.  We need to have our voices heard a little more.

I hope Stobart wins.  It's good for everyone except those who live high on the hog by overcharging for legal services.  Or law degrees.

And I hope we can all learn some valuable lessons over here about stripping the waste from the legal system.  Because if they can do it in England, where legal tradition was born, then we can damn well do it over here to those law schools that were created in the past two decades for the sole purpose of milking the system.

21 comments:

  1. Of course, the trucking industry runs like a swiss watch too.

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    1. And the gold medal for "missing the point" goes to...

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  2. Crossing the pond now?

    Creative and visionary I guess, but it seems the posts are straying a bit?

    Urban legends and this one maybe mark a shift in theme towards a general grouch about the legal profession?

    So maybe change the title of the blog?



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    1. My take is that young people are being sold a bill of goods by the law schools and society in general. "Oh, there aren't fundamental shifts going on in the legal market! It's just the recession!" or "Oh, you can always hang a shingle with your degree!" Young people don't see the bigger picture here. We are trying to show it to them before they find out the hard way.

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    3. So, 12:31, the take home message is...there is much rejoicing and people are exceedingly glad that thousands of law grads are being mislead and end up taking it on the chin, just like when British colonialism resulted in the deaths of thousands of native peoples who had the temerity to rise up against their oppressors for a false bill of goods?

      Boy, those were the days, eh...? Nothing like a good cleansing once in awhile, that's what I always say.

      Hmm.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. Wow. What a demanding audience we have!

    I certainly apologize for spending my Sunday morning writing something (on a slow law school news day and one on which no other writer here had scheduled a post) that might entertain or inform. How foolish of me, and how selfish of me to not spend my *entire* Sunday tapping away at the keyboard so you could have your two minutes of armchair concern for the plight of US law grads.

    Guys, if you're looking for 100% hardcore law school scam posts with a laser-like focus, then you're probably in the wrong place. But if you're interested in the law school scam from a perspective that zooms in on the real issues, then pans across the broader spectrum of what's going on in the legal economy (yes, even in other countries!), then perhaps we're for you.

    Because like it or not, we're not an island of people with unique problems here; the world does not revolve around a population of pissed-off US law grads. We're just one small part of the huge f**king mess that is higher education as a whole and the entire legal system. If you're not at all interested in broader higher education and legal issues or changes in the legal economy - like, so disinterested that you feel inclined to not just ignore the post but to actually register your complaints - then you may well be part of the problem and not the solution.

    Maybe the post was too subtle, so let me spell it out. Even in other countries, with far more prestigious legal systems than ours, there's a race to the bottom, slashed budgets, and lawyers telling lies to preserve their own personal incomes. It was a moderately interesting story. Sorry it was not directly relevant to your own personal strife, but this is "Outside the Law School Scam", not "Therapy for Stephen G. Collins, Esq., JD 2010".

    Apologies again. Next time, I'll be sure to devote an entire weekend to my work here.

    Or on the other hand, perhaps your participation in this battle could be more than demanding that others do more on your behalf?

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    1. I'm sorry. It was good. It was good. Really.

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    2. Ignore the douches. The post was fine. Keep up the good work. Fresh content is always appreciated.

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    3. I enjoyed the post.

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    4. This is a fine post. Keep up the good work!

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    5. Post was fine and necessary. Comparisons to the UK are great as they also have a lawyer oversupply, educational crisis and professional crisis.

      In fact, more UK lawyer news would be fantastic and insightful.

      --Jim

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  5. I've just finished a series of graduation ceremonies from G-dub. Since I am gainfully employed, my degree is not law, and I don't have student loans I don't feel as though I've been had or that the ceremony is rubbing in the insult of a scam.

    However, there were law school students celebrating in another part of the crowd. While I did not get to talk to any of them, I was wondering what they were thinking about these whole proceedings.

    I hope that everyone else turns out fine and that the law school classes are smaller for subsequent years.

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  7. The Stobart intrusion is not the only aspect of legal aid "reform" that UK lawyers are complaining about lately. Read this.

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  8. This post touches on this, but there's a wider question about who can own or invest in a law firm. In the UK they have already agreed to or are seriously considering letting non-law firms employ lawyers.

    In fact, what I heard is the lawyers fear this will decimate the profession because the big supermarket chain Tesco was planning to hire some lawyers. To visualize, imagine Walmart had some lawyers past the checkout counters, next to the pharmacy.

    In Britain, the conservatives are pretty socialist, but, bizarrely, the one area they are extremely conservative/libertarian about is competition law. The current Prime Minister in fact wants to allow private enterprises to compete for virtually any public service. This liberalization push in the legal profession is related to this tendency in Britain.

    For America it shows us the fork in the road over reform - either the profession puts its house in order itself, like professions are supposed to -- or end the professionalism that shields lawyers from competition law and treat the ABA/law schools like a cartel and price-fixers. Personally, I hope the profession fixes itself because Im a bit sentimental about lawyers and wouldn't like to see them mainly practice out of Walmart.

    --Jim

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