The shortfall of legal services for indigent clients is alarming. The present rules seem unlikely to incentivize or require lawyers to address adequately the unmet legal needs of the poor. Several commentators have suggested the possibility that increased regulation could improve access to legal services. Very little scholarship, however, has considered whether the opposite proposition might be true: Could deregulation actually improve the availability of legal services for the poor?
This Article will consider four fairly radical proposals: (1) liberalizing the restrictions on foreign attorneys in order to allow outsourcing of legal aid services to India and Mexico, (2) permitting the practice of public interest law by laypeople in related fields such as family counseling and social work, (3) suspending the application of certain ethical rules to individuals and firms that exceed a minimum number of pro bono hours, and (4) reining in the American Bar Association’s accreditation requirements in order to allow the creation of “public interest academies” that would provide a low-cost alternative for law students who aspire to practice public interest law.
Close scrutiny reveals that the first three of these proposals are not viable. But the fourth proposal could transform American legal education and greatly advance the goal of equal access to justice. This Article concludes by noting some potential objections to the proposal for public interest academies and by identifying areas for future research.