Attention Lawyers, We need a Hand, Not a Brain: A Licensing Parable

Several sites have reposted this Craigslist ad, gasping in shock at it as evidence of massive foreclosure fraud

We are a collection agency/debt buyer. What we are looking for is a part time attorney to work for us as our corporate counsel, on our payroll, about 5 to 6 hours a week. This is a short term employment arrangement, no longer than 90 to 120 days.

Your job will be to sign pleadings, praecipe for entry of appearances, praecipe for writ of execution, and garnishment orders. Our paralegal will prepare all paperwork for your signature. This is very standard stuff for us.

If you are an attorney looking for challenging legal work, this is not for you. WE DO NOT NEED F LEE BAILEY- we are fee shopping. If you passed your boards with a D+, and you can sign your name, you possess all the credentials required for this job. If this opportunity interests you, please feel free to reply to this email with a brief description of who you are, when you got your law license, and what you will be needing from us in the way of compensation.

I would instead offer it as a lesson in the stupidity of state-enforced professional licensing arrangements.  Let me rewrite it:

We have all the legal knowlege we need.  We know exactly what the forms look like and mean.  We have written all the documents and tested them over time during our long presence in this business and we know them to meet our legal needs.   We have no need, in other words, for legal help.

However, attorneys have gotten together and created an attorneys guild, and, what's more, have convinced the government to pass laws that require membership in the guild to perform certain gate-keeping functions.  In our case, we need a member of the guild to sign some forms to make them legal, both because the guild has strong influence and because certain folks have convinced everyone that all mortgage pain in this country came from having a machine perform this signature function rather than a flesh and blood hand.  So we need a flesh and blood hand rather than a machine to sign foreclosure documents.  Unfortunately, that hand has to be attached to a brain that has passed the bar exam, and because the guild is pretty good at limiting its membership, we expect to have to pay an absurd amount of money for this trivial function that could be duplicated by a six-year-old (and used to be performed by a simple $100 machine).

Don't get us wrong -- if we were on trial for our lives or facing a nasty, complicated lawsuit or wanted to draft a custom contract to protect our interests, we would be very happy to consider the opinion of third party licensing groups as to the merit of a particular attorney.  Ironically, though, even then current licensing would be absurd, for in this case it would not greatly exceed our quality requirements (as it does for signing our foreclosure paperwork) but it would vastly undershoot our need due diligence needs.   Perhaps there is some legal function for which attending an ABA-accredited school and passing the bar exam is the perfect level of quality assurance, but we have not found it yet.


  1. NevadaMark:

    You keep this up, Coyote, and you are going to be the first non-lawyer in American history to get disbarred.

  2. Dale:

    Yea Coyote, you had better hope that lawyers don’t become a protected class. However, that would seem to be unlikely as there seems to be more then enough.

  3. NL_:

    The attorney will need to carry some sort of malpractice insurance, so even with a rubber-stamp gig he'll be held to a standard as if he knew what all the documents meant and actually exercised some professional thought. Any error would rebound back on him for trusting the paralegal. The system is set up so the paralegal doing the work has no liability, but the signing lawyer has it all; meaning the lawyer has an incentive to check that everything is appropriate.

    Also, five to six hours a week sounds like more than just signatures. Unless they need over a thousand signatures per week. I think they know they need to pay the lawyer to review this stuff before getting a signature.

  4. mahtso:

    Passed your "boards?" Maybe I am uninformed, but is there such a thing for attorneys? Pass the bar, sure, pass the boards? Sounds like a hoax. Of course, there are good jobs stuffing envelopes still available.

  5. Capn Rusty:

    Actually, Coyote, you need a proofreader.

  6. Panhandle Scott:

    This hit a nerve because I am about to send out a proposal for a job where the city requires a PE stamp for no good reason. As I say to new engineers, "Welcome to the union". At least with engineering there is a real public safety responsibility on some of the jobs.

  7. greg:

    I spend every holiday arguring against licensing for engineers (I have a few PE's in my family). They've been led to believe that that piece of paper is some sort of great achievement that suddenly transforms them into a "real" engineer. I'll certainly be sharing this story with them.

  8. Maximum Liberty:

    I believe you mis-spelled the word "liars" in the title.


  9. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:


    Attention Layers, We need a Hand, Not a Brain: A Licensing Parable

    Ummm... "Layers"...? I assume, unlike Max, that's supposed to be "Lawyerz"

  10. John David Galt:

    Coyote's objection is well taken.

    The problem isn't lawyers themselves. The bar exam isn't trivial, and is probably a good indicator of at least minimal competence, just as an engineer who has passed the PE exam probably won't build a bridge that collapses for no good reason.

    But the licensing requirement is extreme overkill for most of the things lawyers do.

    Don't get me wrong; if I'm ever sued for $100 million or go on trial for murder, I'll hire the best Dream Team I can get. But to fill out routine forms your company has done by the thousand already? Give me a break. A teenager could do that just fine.

    Next they'll change to writing all the laws in Latin, so that we'll need these anointed specialists to read them for us, just as we did for the Bible before Luther came along.