How would we know if and why the “law” is “overly complicated and outrageously expensive”?

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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4 Responses

  1. Au contraire, Dave, you are quite the snob, just not in the manner you think. There are plenty of credentialed non attorneys who are well versed in estate & probate planning. They’re called independent paralegals, or, in California, where the State Bar is so terrified of paralegals being able to provide similar services of an uncontested nature for about a quarter of the usual, bloated $500.00/hr. state bar member price tag, they had the state pass a law so that paralegals can’t even refer to themselves as such. They have to pay a fee to the counties they do biz and call themselves “legal document assistants” which makes about as much sense as attorneys having to call themselves court document assistants.

    All too often I’ve experienced attorneys and law students contempt for paralegals, but the fact remains that paralegals in most instances are far more knowledgeable & competent than most freshly minted JDs and even some of their more experienced state bar brethren.

    Stop spreading FUD -fear, uncertainty & doubt- and educate your audience that provided the appropriate due diligencing is conducted, an attorney is not necessarily the be all/end all of estate planning or any other non-contested facet of the law.

  2. Dave Hoffman says:

    I’m not denying that nonlawyers can create excellent estate and probably planning documents. But it would be useful to have some evidence of the relative quality of those documents at avoiding estate problems. It wouldn’t shock me at all to find that experienced paralegals are better than newly minted lawyers. How about newly minted paralegals versus newly minted lawyers? Do you know of any evidence, one way or another?

    It’d be useful if you could also expand on what you mean by “appropriate due diligencing.” Do you mean the consumer ought to investigate the service provider. By what metric?

  3. Ken Rhodes says:

    Dave, I’m surprised by one sentence fragment in your original post, especially in light of your response to Prattle On. You wrote “and I’d prefer to draft it myself than take it from a form book…”

    A few years ago I wanted to buy a house under unusual circumstances, with unusual terms and conditions. I contacted a highly regarded and highly competent real estate lawyer to draft a “custom contract” for me. His response was that he would be glad to do my work for me, but he would not start with a blank sheet; he would work from the standard Board of Realtors contract form.

    I asked him why, with all my special terms and conditions, wouldn’t it be simpler just to write a custom contract. And his response, which in retrospect was surely correct, was:

    “I can write your special terms and conditions, but there are a bazillion little details that have already been wrung out and proved over many years in the standard contract, and it’s more likely that I can avoid a mistake by using that form than trying to create my own.”

    So what I’m getting to is that it seems to me there are a lot of “standard” types of documents that have been wrung out over many years, and countless court challenges, that you can buy for a buck-ninety-eight now, with more security in their accuracy than a custom-drawn document by even a very high-priced attorney.

  4. Frank says:

    It would be interesting to know how many of the “Editors” behind the editorial are trust-funders or foundation favorites. Having that elite backing, I’m sure they would benefit if rival bastions of knowledge capital (like universities) dissolve.

    It would also be interesting to know how many of them would actually use the Mao-style barefoot doctors they appear to be advocating, if they had a serious health concern. To paraphrase Mel Brooks: nobody expects the Cultural Revolution.