January 5, 2021

What is the future of the legal profession?

If you are considering working with a law firm, or applying to work in one, you might be wondering what the future of the legal profession looks like (we know we do!) You might find yourself gazing into a crystal ball as you try to work out what challenges and opportunities are ahead. Obviously Brexit and Covid-19 are huge challenges, but are there big structural changes coming to how legal services are provided?

The Legal Services Act 2007 shook the legal world to the core, opening up the way to a range of different providers and leading to headlines like “Supermarket divorces on offer”.  Over the last few years different reviews have been conducted looking at the effectiveness of the reforms, from the point of view of legal service users. The Mayson Review, which was conducted as an independent review project set up by UCL, has recently been published with a range of interesting findings. It’s worth a look!

Here are some key takeaways:

  1. The separation between regulation of the legal profession and representation of its interests is not sufficiently clear. Under the 2007 Act the Law Society is both the “approved regulator” and its professional body – and the Act doesn’t refer to the SRA. 
  2. Public confidence is also dented by persistent complaints particularly in relation to immigration and criminal representation and, to make matters worse, the Legal Ombudsman comes in for criticism for not dealing effectively with complaints.
  3. Understandable consumer confusion arises in respect of the delivery of “non-reserved legal services” (which means specific services for which a professional qualification is not required). If these services are conducted by anyone who also carries on “reserved” legal services (such as litigation and probate) then the non-reserved services are subject to regulation. If the person carrying out the services does not also handle reserved services then the non-reserved services are not regulated. You really can forgive confusion on this can’t you?

And how might these issues be dealt with?

  • By creating a registration scheme covering all those providing non-reserved legal services and making those services subject to review by the Legal Ombudsman. Looking in the longer term to make these providers fully subject to regulation.
  • Ending the role of professional bodies in regulation.
  • Including Lawtech in the definition of the provision of legal services – like Lawya!
  • Creating a public register of all legal service providers making the extent of regulation clear.
  • Extending legal professional privilege to all providers.

How might that affect law firms? The answer is more competition! Law firms may need to look at more ways to reduce overheads as there may be an increased need to work to fixed fees and compete with Lawtech and alternative service providers. 

This article was written by the team at Law Answered, who produce great study and revision notes for law students on the LLB, PGDL, LPC and SQE.