Catherine Rampell was right to point in her Aug. 26 op-ed, “Don’t blame the feds for all that small-business red tape,” to a web of state and local rules that limit business growth. And she was right, also, to suggest such strictures are often sustained by powerful groups preserving their members’ businesses with high entry barriers.
It is an interesting time in occupational licensing, as the Supreme Court noted in its North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners opinion last year, warning states to remain closely involved in professions’ oversight; otherwise, the groups would face antitrust litigation for acting mostly to restrain trade rather than to protect the public.
Last month, the American Bar Association’s Commission on the Future of Legal Services urged action in response to the continuing flood of unrepresented people in the nation’s courthouses. The commission found “examples of providers other than lawyers who are delivering cost-effective and competent legal help” but found that “the legal profession’s resistance to change hinders additional innovations.”
In the District, the D.C. Court of Appeals Committee on Unauthorized Practice of Law invited comments on its rules this year, a welcome step toward a promised broad review. With an active Access to Justice Commission here bringing stakeholders to the table from the courts, the community and the profession, there is a good opportunity to consider whether less red tape in licensing attorneys could protect the public while also yielding the sort of innovation Ms. Rampell called for in the government’s approach to regulation.
Tom Gordon, Washington
The writer is executive director of Responsive Law.