State Bar of California


Some realism on the regulatory reform movement


Imagine a legal sector neatly divided into two groups: the Rule Makers and the Risk Takers.  With evidence piling up that the legal market is not working for ordinary citizens, the Rule Makers come together to evaluate possible changes. After the new rules are enacted, the burden shifts to the Risk Takers to build out workable solutions.

If we apply this simple model to the US legal sector, it appears that the Rule Makers are struggling to deliver, as the most high-profile liberalization efforts at the state and national levels are now being shelved or slow-walked. See, e.g., Cheryl Miller, “California State Bar Puts Brakes on Proposed ‘Regulatory Sandbox,’” Am. Law., Mar. 13, 2020 (citing “political headwinds” as reason for tabling ATILS Task Force recommendations); Brenda Sapino Jeffreys, “ABA Approves Innovation Resolution, With Revisions to Limit Regulatory Changes,” Law.com, Feb. 17, 2020 (discussing passage of watered-down resolution that disavowed any changes to nonlawyer ownership or the unauthorized practice of law).
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Marcus Arnold and Michael Lewis, © Capital Pictures

In this post, I tell an old Michael Lewis story that bears on the law. Remarkably, most of the insights come from a 15-year-old boy named Marcus Arnold, pictured above with Lewis circa 2001.  I then review the U.K.’s journey to market liberalization, including the repeal of the British version of Model Rule 5.4.  
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