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Deborah Rhode has challenged the legal profession to reform itself, and she has given us several blueprints for effecting systemic changes. Her book, In the Interests of Justice, ably addresses complaints voiced by clients, academics, the public at large, and by lawyers themselves about the legal profession and the system of justice. We focus here on one of the causes of disquiet about lawyers and justice—the bar's complete abdication of its obligation to provide competent legal services to indigent criminal defendants.
In this essay, our interest is the regulation of criminal defense lawyers. Our goal is also more general—to bring attention to the relationship between client markets and the regulation of attorneys. While many have addressed how the availability of lawyers varies with clients' capacity to pay, few have looked at how remedies for incompetent or inadequate legal services also vary directly with the financial wherewithal to pay lawyers. The many sources of regulation of lawyers at the top of the legal hierarchy stands in sharp contrast to those mechanisms that exist for lawyers who serve indigent criminal defendants.
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