The Texas Supreme Court is considering publishing a set of standardized Texas divorce forms to help “pro se” litigants represent themselves in their own uncontested divorces. Texas is not alone in the volume of self-represented litigants in divorce and family law matters – a trend that is propelled by the high cost of legal fees. Texas is, however, behind other states in responding to the needs of “pro se” litigants. Other states such as Florida and Maryland have published standardized forms in family law actions for years.
The Texas Bar is opposed to the publication of these forms, but the Court is moving ahead with the project despite the Bar’s opposition. The Bar’s position is that every one needs to be represented by an attorney. This is the State Bar that famously opposed the publication of self-help law books and legal software on the theory that these publications some how constituted the practice of law. The Bar won a case against Quicken Family Lawyer on this theory that legal software is the equivalent of the practice of law.
Subsequently the Texas legislature passed an exception to the definition of the practice of law in the State of Texas to make clear that the distribution of legal software does not constitute the practice of law.
It is the organized bar’s opposition to programs that are designed to increase access to the legal system for people who cannot afford already high legal fees that gives the legal profession a bad name. Lack of competition stifles innovation and access to the legal system.