The American Bar Association’s Amnesty Hypocrisy

american-bar-association4If you ever wondered why lawyers cost so much, it’s because legal licensing agencies operate like an old-fashioned cartel. But when it comes to pushing their political agenda in Congress and the media, it is globalism and unrestrained immigration for everyone else.

State bar associations, along with the American Bar Association (ABA), the national regulator, are intensely protectionist. This is understandable, given the current economic pain felt in the industry. Over the last few years, state bar associations have increasingly tightened up the admission standards for foreign law degree-holders. Currently, only a few states let such foreign JD and LLB graduates from developed common law-countries (Britain, Canada, Australia, etc.) take the exam directly after graduation.

On top of essentially barring foreigners, the ABA also tightens entry by regulating the number of places available at accredited law schools. In addition, they ratchet up the level of difficulty of state bar exams, require additional “professional responsibility” exams, and force practicing attorneys to pursue “continuing legal education” throughout their career. Each of these measures is arguably of questionable importance. It also contradicts the ABA’s position in other sectors of the labor market, which is seen most clearly by their very vocal support for amnesty for illegal immigrants and increased immigration in general.

As one of the most powerful special interest groups in the country, the 400,000-member ABA lobbies Congress on a host of policy issues. In recent decades, it has also morphed into something of a public policy think tank. From its giant headquarters just a block from the White House, the ABA churns out white paper after white paper on various “social justice” issues. On immigration, they’ve set up numerous “immigrant rights” commissions as well programs that provide free legal services to illegal aliens. Keeping our nation’s borders as porous as possible seems to be one of the organization’s highest priorities. One ABA-offshoot, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, is particularly adept at lobbying Congress on immigration, specifically on increasing the number of temporary H-1B “skilled worker” visas, whose U.S. employers are the Association members’ main clients.

Pushing for ever increasing immigration imposes a loose labor market on our economy’s most vulnerable participants, namely low-skilled menial laborers, manufacturing workers, people in the restaurant and construction industry, and minimum-wage earners in general. Considering the ABA’s tight regulation of the legal industry and the protectionist policies they apply to their own member base, this all seems rather two-faced.

One development that may temper the ABA’s enthusiasm for liberal immigration policies is the increased utilization of “legal outsourcing” ‒ the growing practice of outsourcing back-office and some mid-office legal work to places like India. India, whose legal system follows the British common law model, has over 1.2 million lawyers, most of whom have excellent English skills. Indian-based legal outsourcing has been increasing in recent years with routine tasks, such as document review and legal writing and research, being sent to Indian practitioners whose rates are 10 percent of their American counterparts. There’s little reason why other more substantive litigation and transactional work couldn’t also follow.

It is also logical to think that enterprising Indian firms, like H-1B visa giants Tata and Infosys, may start bringing in Indian attorneys to do legal work, just as they do computer programmers now. If major consumers of legal services, such as Fortune 500 companies, begin to demand more outsourcing and lower billing rates, it’s unclear how the ABA would respond, but it’s hoped they’ll at least start to realize what it’s like to have one’s livelihood and standard of living put under threat.

Some observers rightly point out that lawyers (like journalists and politicians) are more favorable to immigration because their jobs are naturally insulated from foreign competition. But if legal outsourcing really began to gain momentum, perhaps the ABA elites would begin to feel the pinch that unprotected American workers have felt for decades.

If this were to happen, watch our politicians (40 percent of House members and 60 percent of the Senate hold law degrees) suddenly find the time and resources needed to secure the borders and implement perennially stalled programs such as e-Verify and biometric entry-exit systems. Until then unfortunately, it will likely continue to be “do as I say, not as I do” for elitist lobbies like the ABA.

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  • Michael Copeland

    The word “amnesty”, that is to say, the misuse of it in this context, is
    an example of hypocrisy. An amnesty is a truce between two opponents in a hostility. Applying it to immigration imparts a charitable aura which is bogus. It is not charitable to refrain from upholding the law, a perfectly sensible law.


    • Americana

      Amnesty, like most words, has flexibility in its application. The ABA has just as much reason to voice their opinions over such a huge issue as immigration as any other organization whose profession is linked to interpretation of such a situation. They may, in fact, have more to say given their professional position viz American laws and American

      Not sure why anyone would say the ABA is staffed by “liberal losers” more so than any other organization. In fact, I’d suggest there is likely about an equal split between the more conservative and the more liberal lawyer factions but who’s to say? There are after all a huge number of CORPORATE LAWYERS and their job is to ensure that capitalism and the American way get a smooth ride. Somehow I doubt they’re closeted ACLU members.

      • Nick

        ” The ABA has just as much reason to voice their opinions over such a huge issue as immigration as any other organization whose profession is linked to interpretation of such a situation.”
        You are correct they have a right to voice their opinion.
        … And other have a right to voice their opinion, point out ABA hypocrisy, and other of us will think of them as putrescent, hypocritical basturds.
        Calling the ABA basturds is not to be anti-lawyer. Members of the ABA are a subset of all lawyers.

  • Seko

    Two comments

    My biggest and most virulent problem with the ABA is setting up barriers to letting anyone take the test especially foreigners who have a JD from some other country. If they can take the test in English and pass the test who cares what country they come from.

    Continuing legal education makes some sense. We have similar in other industries. I know them as continuing education units (CEUs). With the CEUs we get credit for being employed in the industry in the job title. We get credit for attending rubber chicken dinners. These dinners are of questionable use. I thought they were a joke. I never learned a damn thing, but they are good for networking. The way you can get credit is to attend seminars or take college courses. So of course people who put on seminars and universities are big supporters of CEUs.

    On the other hand you can skip the chicken dinners, seminars, universities if you just take the test every 3 years. That is a bit much. I see the need for see if a professional still has what it takes. I can remember a general practitioner in my home town, who seemed to have gone to seed.

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  • JD

    Excellent points. The ABA is a useless organization that has started to expand to other areas (advocating for mass immigration) in order give themselves a sense of relevance. But really, who cares what the ABA says? It’s just another group staffed by liberal losers who seek to advance socialism.

  • Randy Townsend

    The ABA membership contains only a fraction of practicing attorneys, and for good reason: Their policies are akin to the worst unions in America. I don’t belong and never will, nor will most attorneys.

  • Justsomeguy

    Sounds like government mandated rent seeking to me.

  • physicsnut

    I wonder how much money they get from Facebook and other Silicon Valley moneybags.

  • Gee

    I have a real suggestion – instead of immigration there should be a transfer.

    For every immigrant America accepts – the country losing the immigrant has to take an American lawyer. Soon both sides would be satisfied.

    No country would ever allow their people to migrate and they would be so screwed-up that they could cause no harm. And America would be the better for it