Lawyers, Markets and Regulation

Lawyers, Markets and Regulation

Frank H. Stephen

Frank H. Stephen’s evaluation of public policy on the legal profession in UK and European jurisdictions explores how regulation and self-regulation have been liberalized over the past 30 years. The book surveys where the most recent and radical liberalization involving the ownership of law firms by non-lawyers is likely to lead, and appraises the economic literature on the costs and benefits of regulating markets for professional services. It challenges socio-legal views on professional legislation and highlights the limitations of regulatory competition, as well as the importance of dominant business models. The author reviews the empirical work underpinning these theories and policies. He also evaluates the effectiveness of regulatory competition as a response to regulatory capture.

Chapter 8: A technological revolution in ‘lawyering’?

Frank H. Stephen

Subjects: economics and finance, industrial economics, institutional economics, law and economics, law - academic, law and economics, regulation and governance

Extract

The extension of regulatory competition made possible by LSA 2007 was discussed in the preceding chapter. A second effect of LSA 2007 is opening the ownership of law firms to non-lawyers. The extension of regulatory competition represents, to a certain extent, continuity with previous attempts to liberalize markets for legal services in the United Kingdom. By creating an overview regulator with the promotion of competition in legal services as a major objective it has given the pursuit of regulatory competition more teeth. However, it is argued in this chapter that by opening the ownership of entities providing legal services to non-lawyers LSA 2007 creates the potential for a ‘technological revolution in lawyering’. This is likely to result from innovations in service delivery which build on business processes developed in other sectors but which are not easily transferable between firms. It may also result in the development of new legal ‘products’. It should be stressed that these regulatory changes and their implications are of wider significance than legal service markets in England & Wales. They give an insight into the limitations of treating competition issues in markets for legal services without considering the drivers of business organization.The first section of this chapter discusses the ‘technology of lawyering’, arguing that traditional restrictions on ownership of law firms have restricted the technologies which are available for the provision of legal services and inhibited innovation in the nature of legal services. However, LSA 2007 makes possible innovation in the technology of lawyering in England & Wales.

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