For people applying to law firms, worries concerning the legal profession's future are a regular topic of conversation. When you are figuring out what the future holds for the legal profession and law businesses, you will often find yourself peering into a crystal ball. Perhaps you would prefer to write about, or respond to queries about, anything other thanCovid-19?
The Legal Services Act 2007 shocked the legal sector to the core, opening the door to a wide variety of providers and resulting in headlines like "Supermarket divorces on sale". Several studies have been done over the last several years to see how the changes are working from the perspective of people who utilise legal services. Several fascinating conclusions have emerged in the Mayson Review, done by UCL as an independent review study.
The following are a few noteworthy points:
1. Legal services referred to as "non-reserved" are a source of misunderstanding for consumers (those for which a professional qualification is not required). Non-reserved legal services are subject to regulation if they are provided by someone who also provides reserved legal services. Non-reserved services are not regulated if the individual providing them does not also provide reserved services.
2. A clear line must be drawn between regulating the legal industry and representing the interests of those in the industry. The Law Society is the "authorized regulator" and professional organisation under the 2007 Act; the SRA is not mentioned in the Act.
3. The Legal Ombudsman has also come under fire for its handling of complaints, notably in immigration and criminal law, which has tarnished public faith.
And what are the options for resolving these problems?
Making non-reserved legal services subject to review by the Legal Ombudsman introduces a registration process that covers all persons who provide non-reserved legal services. We want to make these service providers completely regulated in the long run.
Eliminating the regulatory function of professional associations.
Including Lawtech in the concept of legal service providing.
All legal service providers should be included in a publicly accessible database, showing how much regulation they face.
Legal professional privilege should be extended to all service providers.
Are there implications for law firms? There will be much more competition now! As fixed fees become increasingly common, law firms may look for new methods to save costs. Perhaps there will be more opportunities to work from home? Perhaps it's not the best time to invest in office services right now!