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The broad thesis of this presentation is that an environment that fosters input from nonlawyers is better than a closed one, and that the time has come to rethink the U.S. legal profession's rules and structures that were designed to narrow exposure to, and influence by, nonlawyers. To illustrate this contention, this presentation highlights one recent movement in the globalized legal marketplace that remains stymied in the United States: nonlawyer investment in claims i.e., claim funding. [The current rules and regulations governing nonlawyer investment in claims epitomize the U.S. legal profession's stance on collaboration between law- yers and nonlawyers. Many states completely outlaw claim funding by nonlawyers based on outdated and arguably inaccurate interpretations of the ancient doctrines of maintenance, interfering in a legal proceeding by a third party that is not a party to the suit; champerty, maintenance for a profit; and barratry, inciting litigation. Although some states have abolished these antiquated barriers to claim funding, many states make approval contingent on the third-party funder having absolutely no control, input, or influence over litigation decisions and case management--a rule that, as a practical matter, is unrealistic.
This presentation starts with the premise that law is a business, and thus the legal market cannot be insulated from capital markets. Because what happens in other parts of the world invariably affects what happens in the United States, there will be strong pressure for the United States to allow investment in claims in all fifty states, and to a greater degree than currently allowed. Although the bar may be able to resist buy-in for some unpredict- able but possibly significant period of time, this presentation contends that lawyers and clients will potentially benefit if the U.S. bar embraces claim funding in the commercial context and implements a regulatory system to maximize its advantages and minimize its potential risks. Further, this presentation utilizes the example of claim funding to show that granting nonlawyers more influence could stimulate much needed innovation in the provision and management of legal services, enhance problem solving and efficiency for the benefit of clients and society, and in- crease lawyer's ability to compete in a global marketplace. Instead of equating outside influence by nonlawyers with having “too many cooks in the kitchen,” the U.S. legal profession could take advantage of a regulated level of influence to help create the richest stone soup possible.