Legal Services Regulation at the Crossroads

Legal Services Regulation at the Crossroads

Justitia’s Legions

Noel Semple

Through a comparative study of English-speaking jurisdictions, this book seeks to illuminate the policy choices involved in legal services regulation as well as the important consequences of those choices. Regulation can protect the interests of clients and the public, and reinforce the rule of law. On the other hand, legal services regulation can also undermine access to justice and suppress innovation, while failing to accomplish any of its lofty ambitions. The book seeks a path forward to increasing regulation's benefits and reducing its burdens for clients and for the public. It proposes a client-centric approach to enhance access to justice and service quality, while revitalizing legal professionalism, self-regulation, and independence.

Chapter 6: Access to justice

Noel Semple

Subjects: law - academic, law of obligations


Chapter 5 of this book identified three reasons why the professionalist-independent tradition complicates the efforts of legal services regulators to accomplish their public interest goals. This chapter takes up the second major problem with the tradition, which is one of unintended consequences as opposed to regulatory failure. Professionalist-independent legal services regulation seems to impede access to justice in a way that competitive-consumerist legal services regulation does not. The chapter begins by showing that high prices and lack of innovation have placed expert legal services beyond the reach of too many people in English-speaking North America. Importantly, these problems seem to be more severe in Canada and the United States than they are in the United Kingdom and Australasia. The chapter then shows how access problems might be compounded by two distinctive features of North America's professionalist-independent legal services regulation: unification of the legal profession and insulation of law firms from non-lawyer investors and partners. Comparisons are drawn with England & Wales and Australia, jurisdictions which have led the way into competitive-consumerist reform. The chapter concludes that, although regulatory reform is not a magic bullet for access to justice, there is strong evidence of a link between professionalist-independent regulation and access. ‘Access to justice’ is a concept which involves a variety of powerful ideals.

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