In forty-four states of the Union and in Alaska, Porto Rico, Hawaii, and the Philippine Islands there are workmen's compensation acts. A great majority of these acts provide for a board or commission to settle all disputes as to compensation. Practice before these boards and commissions has become a large share of the business of many lawyers and of many law firms. To them, in particular, and to the legal profession, in general, the question raised in the recent case of Goodman v. Beall is of considerable interest. In this case, suit was brought by a committee of the Ohio Bar Association seeking to restrain defendants, members of the Industrial Commission of Ohio, from permitting laymen or corporations to appear before the commission in a representative capacity in workmen's compensation hearings. The plaintiffs contended that such appearances, in a representative capacity, of persons not regularly admitted to the bar was the unlawful practice of law. The court held that assisting workmen and arguing for them in submitting their claims to compensation was not the practice of law. However, the court said that if the commission refused to allow the workman's claim to compensation, then any application for rehearing or further proceedings as provided by statute was the practice of law and required the services of an attorney. The court pointed out that the statute provided for relaxed rules of evidence and procedure and for simple hearings which were best calculated to speedily ascertain the merits of the workman's claim. This indicated to the court that no services requiring skill and legal knowledge were necessary at an original hearing, and that most of the work was in filling out and filing forms furnished by the commission. On the other hand, when a rehearing was applied for and granted, different rules of evidence and procedure were provided for, and the rehearing record was the only thing on which the workman could base his appeal to the courts. So the court felt that this record must be prepared by an attorney because he was best fitted by his training and knowledge. This decision indicates that a general discussion of representation of workmen by laymen must be based on the various statutes.
Charles R. Moon Jr.,
ATTORNEY AND CLIENT - UNLAWFUL PRACTICE BEFORE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION IN WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION PROCEEDINGS,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol35/iss3/5