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 10: Professionalism and independence renewed

Noel Semple

Subjects: law - academic, law of obligations


There is no institution which, at some given moment, does not degenerate, either because it does not know how to change and mobilize anew, or because it develops unilaterally, overdoing some of its activities. This makes it unsuited to furnish the services with which it is charged. That is reason to seek its reformation, not to declare it forever useless, nor to destroy it. Emile Durkheim. Professionalist-independent legal services regulation is an institution which has fallen behind the times. It has, to borrow Durkheim's language, developed unilaterally without sufficient regard to the changing needs of clients and the public. However, this distinctive approach to regulating legal services should be reformed, rather than being destroyed. Chapter 9 argued that client-centricity should become a new core value of legal services regulation. The regulatory reforms identified therein can advance clients' interests in quality, price, and variety, without compromising professionalism or independence. It remains, however, to reconsider the four distinctive policy commitments of North American legal services regulation identified in Chapters 3 and 4. These are: (i) professional unity; (ii) self-regulation; (iii) insulation of lawyers; and (iv) regulatory focus on individual practitioners. Chapter 10 will consider each of these in turn, showing how they can be revised and modernized in order to enhance regulatory effectiveness and accessibility, while revitalizing – not abandoning – professionalism and independence. It will conclude by considering the political feasibility of these reforms. The first distinctive policy commitment of professionalist-independent regulation is to the unity of the profession.

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