Last week's US Supreme Court ruling that the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners does not enjoy antitrust immunity - because there was not enough state supervision of its activities - has done two things: herald a major threat to the current ban on ABSs in America, and provoke an outpouring of dental-related puns in legal blog headlines.
The blog linked to below gives you the idea, as indeed does this very post, given that the case was about the board's power to prohibit non-dentists from undertaking teeth whitening.
There have been several posts in recent days about the impact of this ruling on state bar associations and whether they can now maintain opposition to ABSs.
And North Carolina is at the heart of all of this given that LegalZoom is suing its bar association (and both made submissions in the Supreme Court case) over the latter's assertion that what LegalZoom does amounts to the 'unauthorised practice of law' (UPL).
UPL is a concept alien to the UK - in fact, we come from the opposite direction in that anyone can conduct legal services unless such services are specifically reserved or regulated. Even though this short list of activities defines the boundaries between qualified lawyers and everyone else, virtually no lawyer I have ever met can give me the full list of them.
Suffice it to say that the majority of legal work is not protected. I have often written about the problems that this causes in terms of consumer protection, but I will not return to that now. Many US lawyers will be sweating over the Supreme Court ruling; I don't want them to have seizures.
Rather than barring non-lawyer ownership of law firms, that better path would use regulation to ensure new entrants do not act in ways harmful to clients’ interests. This approach would help increase public trust in lawyers and send a message that the profession is about its clients and not about its own self-interests.