Saturday, September 23, 2023
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Taking Legal License

Here's an interesting thought: it takes greater competence to practice law without a license than it does to practice it with a license.

If you go about your business in the routine way, pass a bar exam and either get a job or start your own firm, you can be as mediocre as you like. Think about all the mediocre lawyers you know.

But if you skip the Bar exam part, you've got to be very, very good at what you do.

So the logical conclusion is that we should be encouraging aspiring lawyers not to take the Bar exam.

Do you find something wrong with this logic?

Think again. Then check out a ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court called In the Matter of Irwin S. Trester.

What was the matter with Irwin S. Trester? Well, not much actually. According to the ruling, he practiced law successfully in California - not Kansas for 40 years.

I don't know for sure, but it's a good bet that Mr. Trester did his job reasonably well for most of those 40 years because he never passed the California Bar exam and, apparently, no one noticed.

At least they didn't until he finally slipped up and got sued for legal malpractice. That's when he got into trouble.

Consider this for a moment. If a run-of-the-law-school-mill lawyer with a license makes a mistake and gets sued for malpractice, it might be a little unpleasant and cost a bit of money, but nothing much serious happens (unless the malpractice consisted of running off with someone's money or involved gunplay). But this guy Trester makes one mistake after 40 years and the career is over.

Which means, I think, that he didn't make many mistakes for 40 years. Hence, the public was better served by a non-licensed lawyer who had to keep on his toes.

So state policymakers should encourage non-licensed practitioners - because if they mess up just once, they're out. It's a wonderful way to concentrate the mind.

But one or two of you may be wondering why the Kansas Supreme Court was dealing with this. It seems that Trester did pass the Kansas Bar exam - he just decided to practice in California where he failed the exam four times.

Said the opinion: "Trester testified before the hearing panel that he was merely required to have a license to practice in some state, not necessarily in the same state where his office was located."

You can see why he might have had trouble with exams.

SCORING ASSIST. It may be that referees really do give star players preferential treatment.

The following is from an Illinois appellate opinion in a dispute between basketball star Michael Jordan and a woman he may or may not have had an affair with:

"In the spring of 1989, Knafel, a singer, was performing in a band at a hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Chicago Bulls were also in town to play the Indiana Pacers. After her performance, Knafel was approached by a National Basketball Association referee, who eventually introduced her to Jordan over the telephone."

Shouldn't that have been the job of the team's scout?

The Pacers should file a protest.

SHOCK OF THE WEEK. A press release with the headline "Celebrity Divorce Attorney Offers Settlement Conference Tips" appeared up the other day, and, amazingly, number one on the tip list was: "Don't show up without an attorney."

Trying to make up with the spouse didn't make the list.

There's no cause for optimism of any kind.

I'd tell you who put out the press release, but somehow I don't think she needs the publicity.

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