Legal Advice from Nonlawyers: Consumer Demand, Provider Quality, and Public Harms


As new forms of legal services proliferate, jurisdictions around the country are reconsidering how they regulate the practice of law, including by permitting people and things that are not lawyers to provide legal advice and other kinds of legal services. This Article explores three kinds of empirical evidence that should inform considerations about nonlawyer legal advice providers, whether they are people or other sources of advice, like sophisticated computer programs. The analysis focuses on the personal client market, where users of services are human beings, rather than fictive persons like corporations or other kinds of organizations. Three questions guide the inquiry: (1) what is the consumer demand for legal advice? (2) what is the quality of the legal advice being offered by nonlawyers? (3) what harms result from the current restrictions on legal advice by nonlawyers? The body of research is clear: there is demand for legal advice and other services from nonlawyer providers, and such providers can produce services that are as good as or better than those of attorneys. If regulating the practice of law is to be guided by honest concerns for consumer protection, there is much more scope for nonlawyers to practice law safely and effectively than is permitted by the current rules.


Stanford University Stanford, California
  • Rebecca L. Sandefur, Legal Advice from Nonlawyers: Consumer Demand, Provider Quality, and Public Harms, 16 Stan. J. C.R. & C.L. 283 (2020).
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