Tale as old as time: corporate powers would like us to believe that signing over our rights and protections to them will benefit our community.
What’s Going On?
Talk of allowing non-lawyers to own law practices is gaining traction in certain states, lifting a ban that existed for many generations. Already, Arizona has done away with this important ethics rule, and Utah is steadily inching in the same direction.
Why is this a big deal? Because it will inevitably create conflicts of interest that will negatively affect individuals in the community and their ability to find a law practice that cares first and foremost about the legal rights of its clients.
Despite what some would like you to believe, allowing non-lawyers to own law practices will not make legal representation more accessible to you, and it certainly will not improve the quality of the representation you receive.
How Will this Affect Injured Clients?
The legal field includes a strict set of ethical rules to ensure that the clients’ right to the best possible quality of legal representation is never compromised. One of these rules, as I mentioned, is that non-lawyers may not own law firms.
The reason for this is easy to understand. As your lawyer, I make sure that a negligent corporation cannot cause your injury or death with absolutely no consequences. If they sell you a car with faulty brakes, if their employed driver T-bones you on the highway, if they are your employer and force you to suffer a work injury – in all of these scenarios, it’s my job to fight for you and to make sure your rights are protected. All of that goes away if my practice is owned by the company who hurt you (or their parent company, or their subsidiary, or my CEO plays golf with the other company’s CEO, etc.…).
All that would need to happen for you to be high and dry, stuck with a medical bill for an injury you weren’t at fault for, is for the big corporate boss to wave his hand and tell me, “Steve, drop that case.”
But Would Companies Really Do That?
A few years ago, I published a blog post about how McDonalds intentionally sold coffee hot enough to cause third degree burns to their customers because it was cheaper for them to settle with all of the people they injured and disfigured than to simply update their dangerous equipment. And when one woman was finally maimed badly enough for them to face legal consequences, they convinced the entire world that they were the victims of someone else’s stupidity and greed. McDonalds is just one company, of course, but many large corporations are all too happy to jump on the bandwagon of painting injured people exercising their legal rights as the bad guys.
I ask you: if the people in charge of those companies are willing to do things like this, do we really trust them not to cancel your personal injury or workers’ comp. case to avoid the consequences of causing you harm? Do we trust them, for that matter, not to buy up every personal injury firm in the state so that they can never again be sued in that state?
Sure, some corporations will play fair. But those are not the ones who will get ahead, who will form supply chain monopolies, and who will game the system in the name of their own bottom line. The ones who play fair will not be the ones in control when you need someone to fight for you.