f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

March 22, 2005

UK lawyer reforms are OK

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 7:13 pm

As Jurist Paper Chase reported this morning, Lord Falconer, the British Lord  Chancellor, announced yesterday his plan to revamp the regulatory model, complaint and discipline system, and business structures of the UK’s legal profession. (The Times,

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“Falconer promises to reform legal profession, March 21, 2005)   Under the plan, UK lawyers will lose the right to self-regulation.  To allow more flexibility, competition, choice and innovation, partnerships with non-legal professionals (such as accountants) and ownership of law practices by external entities would be permitted .
We’ve discussed the UK proposals here and there, while envying the ability to move legal reform so quickly in Britain, compared to our multi-jurisdictional (and pro-lawyer) American system.  I recommend reading yesterday’s speech by Lord Falconer, and contrast its frankness about the problems of UK’s legal profession, and the willingness to find consumer-and-competition-oriented solutions, with the pablum, defensiveness and denial we get from America’s bar leaders. 

 

hawk gray small  Also note the prime focus: “most importantly, all the changes we make must pass the simple test that they put the consumer first.”  (emphasis added)  Lord Falconer concluded:
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So we have a system that, at it’s best, is the finest in the world. A system based on a long and proud history. But we also have a system that is unsuited for the 21st century.
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In all service industries, legal services included, the consumer’s needs are paramount.
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But what is it that consumers want?
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They want to be able to trust their lawyer – and be sure about their integrity.
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They want good value for money. And they want a quality service that helps them with the problem they’ve got. This means an efficient service, an effective service and an economic service.
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hawk red small They want to be confident that the service will be delivered in a way that meets their expectations, and at a reasonable cost. Confident that, if there is a problem, it will be dealt with properly. Confident that the trade bodies have their interests in mind, not just those of their members. And they want choice.
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Consumers are now familiar with making informed choices – whether that’s changing a gas or electricity supplier or booking a flight with a budget airline. The internet and broadband technology has started a revolution in the way people make decisions and purchase services. People want to look at the options and feel empowered to choose the service that’s delivered in the right way at the right time and at the right price.
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So, confidence and choice – this is where we need to head towards, that’s our vision for the way legal services are delivered. 
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What a concept!  A legal system that puts the interests of consumers first — and from a man who can do something about it.  Sounds kinda unAmerican, huh?
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update (March 23, 2005): John Steele at LEF points to the reaction of The Law Society of England and Wales, which plans to have a non-solicitor-controlled regulatory Board in operation by September, but which also urges the Government “not to miss this opportunity to protect the public from unregulated, rogue legal advisers.” (Press Release, “The Future of Legal Services,” March 22, 2005).  Steele aptly notes:
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“All this seems predictable if we view the profession as negotiating with the state for a “regulatory bargain” that will protect the profession’s income and social standing.  It was apparently necessary as a political matter for the Society to loosen its grip on the regulatory function, but it is using the reforms as a chance to seek continued ‘boundary protection’ from non-lawyers.”

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