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Under a California procedure, parties to litigation may agree to have their cases referred to retired judges for private trial. While the procedure affords substantial benefits in some kinds of cases, it does involve problems that will probably limit its more general use.
Lawyers have a pro bono publico obligation, arising both from the profession ‘s tradition of service before gain and from the lawyer's essential and monopolistic position in the justice system. The appropriate measure of this obligation is the reasonable capacity of the profession to provide public service, a standard that can be met only if all lawyers are involved in the effort. While volunteerism has some values that might be impaired by a mandatory system of pro bono service, only a mandatory system gives promise of involving all lawyers in the discharge of this fundamental professional obligation.
While the legal profession's efforts to suppress the practice of law by non-lawyers go back to colonial times, the modern unauthorized practice movement began in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Its greatest success, however, took place during the 40 years from 1920 to 1960. Recent years have seen the reversal of some of the prior successes in the field, and current challenges to unauthorized practice restrictions raise serious questions about their present validity. Do the benefits to the public from the enforcement of rules against the unauthorized practice of law justify continuation of the effort?
A legal service delivery system intended to facilitate the providing of services by private practitioners should, to be complete, include among its functions three that are of special importance. First, it should diagnose legal problems. Second, it should make available to a person with a legal problem the information needed for informed selection of a lawyer. And third, it should, when necessary, help the prospective client to make the initial contact with a lawyer. Lawyer advertising, specialty certification, lawyer directories, and lawyer referral services perform some of these functions, but no one mechanism performs all three adequately. A system combining the lawyer directory with an expanded lawyer referral service might do so and thus might be a more complete answer to the problem of delivery of legal services.
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