The recent Arizona Supreme Court reforms have welcomed a new revolution in the justice system that has evidenced the elimination of rule 5.4 that prohibits non-lawyers from owning law firms. With the new law, non-lawyers can now invest and manage law firms by registering them as Alternative Business Structures (ABS).
Although this ruling has been welcomed with mixed criticism, what effects will it have on the justice system, more so the Arizona bar exam? You see, according to the Arizona Bar Exam Information (1), for you to practice law in this state, you must be a member of the Arizona State Bar Association.
To qualify for membership, you must submit a background check as well as pass a Universal Bar Exam. The reason for this is to ensure that clients in the Arizona jurisdiction are offered adequate legal representation by professional lawyers. So, in today’s discussion, we’ll focus on who can practice law in Arizona and the legal process you have to take to practice law professionally.
Who Can Practice Law in Arizona?
Whether this Arizona Supreme Court reform is a good or a bad idea, there’s a lot to discuss on how it will affect the justice system. About who can practice law in Arizona, the simple answer is that anyone is free to become a paraprofessional and represent someone in an Arizona court. However, there are rules to be followed by business entities that decide to offer legal services.
First, the economic interests and decision-making authority of non-lawyer business entities will have to be disclosed to a special committee. Secondly, the Alternative Business Structure (ABS) and all of its investors will be subjected to various licensing and ethic requirements. These requirements will ensure that clients are offered adequate legal representation as per their interests.
How Will This Affect the Justice System?
Now, with these new reforms, unintended consequences are likely to be evidenced in the justice sector. These consequences are positive and negative. On the positive side, these reforms will help to lower fees paid by clients when being represented in court.
Remember, most people across Arizona face a lot of problems when accessing civil justice since they can’t afford to pay a lawyer. That’s because most lawyers charge a lot for profitable cases to ensure that they stay at the top of the business.
But, with these new reforms, affordable paraprofessionals will emerge who will reduce the hefty burden from clients by offering affordable legal representation in misdemeanor cases.
Secondly, these new reforms will allow lawyers to offer legal services in banks and big-box retail stores such as Walmart. Lawyers will also have a chance of joining with other professionals such as accountants, doctors, and psychologists to offer multiple professional services under one roof.
With this strategy, law firms will be normalized as businesses or corporations and will be allowed to obtain capital from any source without being restricted. As a result, the cost of obtaining capital will lower correspondingly leading to a reduction in fees paid by clients.
But, despite enjoying some noticeable benefits, there are risks involved with these reforms. One of the main setbacks that come with these reforms is the fact that investors and non-lawyers will hugely focus on profit maximization other than being guardians of the law.
Secondly, in case of an argument between an investor and a client, a lawyer will judge in the best interest of his/her investor. Thirdly, since paraprofessionals are not professionally trained lawyers, they won’t be allowed to serve in the court, guard the rule of law, or provide any professional services.
Another major concern with these new reforms is that they’ll cheapen the law profession in terms of cost and value. You see, to practice laws, one must go through a very tough education system that involves doing an Arizona bar exam.
Although we’ll discuss this later, an Arizona bar exam is an extensive government-issued exam that every law student must pass before proceeding to practice law. But, with these new reforms, investors and non-lawyers will basically circumvent some of these legal steps. This will hurt the justice system, as most paraprofessionals will lack the necessary experience and qualifications to represent their clients in a court of law.
Lastly, these new reforms will attract investors from other states to flock to Arizona to invest in the legal sector. While some will adhere to the new requirements, others will try to circumvent them. This again will hurt the justice system.
Arizona Bar Exam
As we mentioned earlier, any student willing to study law must sit for a bar exam in the United States. This government-issued exam consists of a series of essay questions that focus on state law and general common law. This test usually takes a day or two.
When you’re done, a student must sit for another special exam on a separate day that’s called the Multi-State Bar Exam (MBE). The MBE consists of 200 questions that focus on common law in a specific jurisdiction.
In Arizona, for instance, law students must sit for an Arizona Bar Exam that’s issued in July. The exam covers 200 multiple-choice questions, two performance test questions, and six essay questions. Among the subjects covered in the test include constitutional law & evidence, family law, civil procedure, conflict of law, business associations, contract law, and criminal procedure among others.
As you can see, these new justice regulations are expected to impact the legal service sector in a great way. On one side, it will allow clients to access affordable paraprofessionals who will represent them in court. On the negative side, the justice sector is likely to cheapen, as paraprofessionals will not require the necessary education to become lawyers.
In the process, there will be two classes of lawyers—those that hold law degrees and those that don’t. Attorneys who have studied law in a more in-depth manner will be regarded as the guardians of the law while paraprofessionals will only be considered as less remunerated members of this profession.