Should legal ethics rules be changed to allow non-lawyer ownership of legal services providers? So controversial is the question that it was major news in July when the State Bar of California voted to appoint a task force to study and make recommendations on the issue. What spurred the bar to take this action was the Legal Market Landscape Report it commissioned from William D. Henderson, professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. Henderson is my guest on today’s episode to discuss his findings and recommendations.

Henderson’s report makes the case that the legal profession is failing in its core mission of serving those who need legal services. The situation has brought the profession to an inflection point that requires action by regulators, Henderson says. The most effective regulatory action would be to ease rules on non-lawyer investment in order to allow lawyers to more closely collaborate with professionals from other disciplines, such as technology, process design, data analytics, accounting, marketing and finance.

“By modifying the ethics rules to facilitate this close collaboration,” Henderson writes in his report, “the legal profession will accelerate the development of one-to-many productized legal solutions that will drive down overall costs; improve access for the poor, working and middle class; improve the predictability and transparency of legal services; aid the growth of new businesses; and elevate the stature and reputation of the legal profession as one serving the broader needs of society.”

At Maurer, Henderson holds the Stephen F. Burns Chair on the Legal Profession. In 2017, he founded Legal Evolution, an online publication that chronicles successful innovation within the legal industry. A prolific author and speaker, he focuses primarily on the empirical analysis of the legal profession. Among his honors, he was named by the ABA Journal as a Legal Rebel, included on the National Law Journal’s list of The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America, and in both 2015 and 2016 named the Most Influential Person in Legal Education by The National Jurist magazine.

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