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The American Bar Association (ABA) is pushing US state governments to pass laws protecting the position of lawyers to handle legal work in their jurisdictions, forcing competing professions to drop paralegal services.
On 28 March, an ABA taskforce released a proposed definition on the practice of law that should only be carried out by certified lawyers, which it would like codified and incorporated into states' regulations.
The proposed model definition of the practice of law is raising hackles among US legal agents, real estate brokers, tax advisers and other professionals who work on paralegal issues. They see it as a way for lawyers to grab power.
The proposal says that non-lawyers who offer legal advice would need to do so mostly under the supervision of a member of the Bar.
There has been opposition from the Federal Government in Washington DC. When it was still in draft form, the definition angered both the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, which predicted that it would leave consumers paying higher prices while facing a smaller range of service options.
The ABA will be asking its house of delegates to formally approve the definition in August. Assuming it is passed, individual state courts will then be encouraged to pass it as law. In a nod to critics, the taskforce has suggested that each state's response should reflect its citizens' interests.