Opportunity Knocks for the Legal Sector to Reform

The pandemic can be an opportunity for change and renewal; one which could benefit everyone.

A statue holding the scales of justice is seen on top of the Old Bailey in London, December 12, 2003. REUTERS/Stephen Hird SH/ASA/AA - RP4DRIFSXQAA
A statue holding the scales of justice is seen on top of the Old Bailey in London, December 12, 2003. REUTERS/Stephen Hird SH/ASA/AA - RP4DRIFSXQAA

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LONDON (Within the Law) - As Britain emerged from the carnage of World War II in the forties the emphasis was on ‘building back better’. Nobody wanted to return to the old system. They knew that the war gave them a chance to reshape a better world than the one had gone before, and they succeeded. 

In crisis comes opportunity. The pandemic has caused immense disruption to the legal sector, but at the same time, it has created an opening for reform. It’s an opportunity that could see the sector reform itself into a more effective system for both lawyers and their clients. 

Writing in City AM, John Gould, Senior Partner at the law firm Russell Clarke has some ideas about how it can do this. He argues that two reports can show the way:

“Last year saw a further expression of dissatisfaction in the legal services market from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the publication of the Mayson report with a compelling vision for the future,” he writes. “It might just be that 2021 will be the year in which we start to move to something more coherent.”

Released last year the Mayson Report made a number of recommendations including the establishment of a single regulator for the industry. As things stand, the sector is overseen by various regulators including the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Legal Services Board and other bodies. It’s a complicated system which makes it difficult for everyone to find a good lawyer. 

Most people who need to find a lawyer go to a friend for advice. However, not everyone is lucky enough to be friends with a reputable lawyer. Even then, recommendations may be based on someone doing a decent job in a different area of the law. 

The Mayson report recommended that professional titles such as lawyer and solicitor should have their own professional bodies. Having a recognisable quality assured title will, he says, help people make a choice. 

The legal services market, he says, should be liberalised under a single statutory body which licenses registrants to provide all sorts of legal services if they have specialist expertise. It would provide standard levels of assurance for services such as conveyancing and would help people balance their choices. 

The aim would be to liberalise the legal services sector and provide a solution which is more client-focused. It would come not before time. As the Competition Markets Authority showed, the legal profession has some way to go in terms of transparency and regulation. The pandemic creates both an opportunity and a need for the law to make that progress.  

(Written by Tom Cropper, edited by Klaudia Fior)

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