A NEW BARBARISM is trying to works its way into popular usage and, little as you may want into it, you ought to know what it means, because its meaning is the one good thing about it. The word is "delawyering" - a piece of jargon that someone invented in a weak moment to describe the process of reforming the legal system so that you don't need to be a lawyer to use some parts of it. It means, in other words, getting the lawyers (and their fees) out of the way in simple legal matters so that justice will be more accessible and cheaper for those who need it.
The idea has taken hold in some state legislatures and is begining to creep into the greater Washington area. Montgomery County's delegates in Annapolis, for example, favor legislation that would permit court clerks to help nonlawyers fill out the legal forms used in some cases. That is a small, but significant, proposal. WIthout that help, most people thing they need to hire a lawyer to handle even the simplest matter, with it, they may not think that any longer. There are many legal situations - ranging from changing your name to settling an uncompleicated estate - tht a reasonabaly intelligent citizen could handle without the expert help of a lawyer if the rules and regulations were designed to permit it. Perhaps the most common of these is the divorce that it truly uncontested. It makes no sense for a citizen to have to hire a lawyer and go through a complicated and expensive ritual to reach a totally predictable result.
"Delawyering," however, is not an idea that is being greeted with greeted with entusiasn by all of the legal profession. It attacks the king of cases - divorce and probate - that are bread and butter on which many lawyers rely; because they are simple, these cases don't require a great deal of time, but they pay well. So "delawyering" is not likely to catch on quickly or even with all deliberate speed in places where the lawmaking bodies are dominated by lawyers.
Even in those, however, there is some hope for change. The consumers of legal services are receiving unexpected help from the Department of Justice. Its antitrust division has been skeptical for some time about the ways in which lawyers enforce the monopoly that they have on supplying legal services. That monopoly, the Justice Department said recently, is often the "result of friendly interaction between legislation drafted and passed by lawyers" and bar association rules and codes. As such, is may be vulnerable to attack under the antitrust laws.
That should be enough of a warning to lawyers that they will begin to reconsider many of the long-standing rules that make legal proceedings so complicated, particularly since the Supreme Court has already ruled against them in cases involving fixed fees and advertising. The principles that the bar assocaitions, and lawyers in general, ought to begin to keep in mind - as contrasted with the principles they now seem to operate under - are that the courts must become more accessible to citizens who feel the need to use them and that justice must become cheaper to obtain than it now is.