An eye-opening look at the cost of getting a law degree blames student loans for the ability of law schools to charge about $50,000 per year, when you include living and other expenses along with tuition. David Segal wrote in The New York Times yesterday that when combined with the prestige race pumped up by U.S. News & World Report's rankings, student loans have allowed law schools to disregard affordability.
The focus of the article, however, was the accreditation standards imposed by the American Bar Association. Segal writes that the standards have pretty much guaranteed that graduating lawyers have no choice but to charge high fees for their services.
If you've ever wanted to sue someone, you already know that unless you're after a minimum of $25,000, you should abandon the idea. It's just not worth it after you calculate what your lawyer will get.
The ABA's stranglehold on legal services prevents the U.S. from having categories of legal professionals who can charge less than lawyers who've passed the bar. In Britain there are other less expensive alternatives like legal executives who can appear before courts and represent clients in different sorts of matters. Without having done any exhaustive research on the subject, it sounds like they are something like the legal version of physician assistants.
The bottom line is that although we all joke about lawyers and lament that there are too many of them, consumers could definitely benefit from access to less expensive legal help. Instead, anyone who dispenses legal advice without having gone to an ABA-accredited school (except in a few states like Tennessee) is breaking--you guessed it--the law.