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Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics




Study after study has concluded that the United States suffers from a lack of access to justice because most legal issues are addressed without attorney involvement. To better serve Americans who cannot currently afford legal assistance, scholars have argued that corporations should be permitted to offer legal services. England and Australia already allow corporations to own law firms and deliver legal services.

Whatever the merits of corporate delivery of legal services, its impact on access to justice has been overstated. The cost of legal services plays a minor role in decisions to not obtain legal assistance. Moreover, many legal services are relatively affordable, and those that are currently cost-prohibitive such as complex litigation cannot be delivered ethically at significantly lower prices. Whereas the legal profession has largely assumed that legal services are very valuable and highly sought after, low- and middle-income people also appear to not prioritize legal assistance and may not benefit from assistance in some situations.

To expand access to justice, the legal profession should educate the public about common legal problems and reconsider ethical rules that hinder attorneys from soliciting business and marketing their services. Legal aid and pro bono resources should be targeted to significant legal problems that cannot be addressed without attorney involvement. Increasing the supply of low-cost legal services providers would merely exacerbate existing inequalities in the legal system while failing to address the need for high quality legal representation with respect to complex matters.

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Georgetown University Law Center

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