By Margaret Porco, Public Affairs Assistant, State Bar of Wisconsin
July 7, 2010 – Thanks to the combined efforts of the State Bar of Wisconsin, the American Bar Association, and bar associations and attorneys across the country, the final version House Bill H.R. 4173 contains an exclusion for the practice of law, leaving the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau without any supervisory authority over attorneys.
Importance of the exclusion for the practice of law
H.R. 4173 included language to exclude lawyers who are licensed and regulated by their state supreme court and engaged in the practice of law. However, the Senate bill held no comparable exclusion.
If the House’s “practice of law” exclusion had not been added by the conference committee that was deliberating the final language of the legislation, the final bill would have interfered with confidential attorney-client relationships, undermined traditional state court regulation and supervision of lawyers, and discouraged many Wisconsin lawyers from providing services.
Essentially, without the House’s “practice of law” exclusion, the legislation would have allowed full regulation of attorneys as if they were creditors.
The State Bar contacted Wisconsin’s members of Congress and urged State Bar members to do the same in order to avoid changing the practice of law in Wisconsin by imposing burdensome new federal regulations on our attorneys.
Attorney’s voices are heard, exclusion added
On June 30, 2010, the House-Senate conference committee agreed to the conference report to accompany H.R. 4173 – now also known as the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.
The Act contains an “Exclusion for the Practice of Law” section that states the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has no authority to enforce regulation or supervise lawyers engaged in the practice of law under the laws of the state in which the attorney can practice law.
Thanks to the actions of more than a dozen state and local bars and their members, that contacted their senators and representatives, the unnecessary layer of federal regulation proposed in the initial legislation will not affect the practice of law.
The House and Senate conferees recognized the importance of the traditional role of state courts in the regulation of attorneys, the confidential attorney-client relationship, and the continued access to quality legal representation for consumers.
New federal legislation could regulate attorneys unless changed – June 22, 2010