Legal Services Regulation at the Crossroads
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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.
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Chapter 2: Legal services regulation in the common law world

Noel Semple


Part I of this book argues that a stark contrast has emerged in the legal services regulatory regimes of the developed common law world. Traditional regulation dedicated to the core values of professionalism and lawyer independence has persisted in English-speaking North America. In Northern Europe and Australasia, regulation has been comprehensively reformed in order to promote very different values: competition and consumer interests. To set the stage for this claim of contrast, this chapter identifies two foundational elements which are shared by legal services regulatory regimes in the developed common law world today. These countries have in common (i) a conception of why legal services need to be regulated in the public interest, and (ii) a set of four regulatory tools upon which they rely. When legal services regulators or statutes announce their objectives, they often mention the ‘public interest.’ However, this term is not self-explanatory, and one must look beyond the statutes to understand the public interest theory. On closer examination, it appears that legal services regulators in various developed common law countries generally provide the same set of explanations for why legal services need to be regulated. Implicitly or explicitly, these rationales distinguish legal services from goods or services whose trade can be unregulated or less regulated. This official theory is the antithesis of the private interest theory of legal services regulation which explains regulation as a manifestation of the self-interests of legal services providers.

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