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 7: Professionalism

Noel Semple


This chapter shows how the core value of professionalism has been used to justify North American legal services regulation. Drawing on functionalist sociology, the theory holds that lawyers, like doctors and some other skilled workers, are professionals who collectively constitute a profession. True professionals are distinguished from businesspeople by their altruism and by their esoteric and socially useful expertise. The theory holds that, because of these special characteristics, traditional professional self-regulation is able to faithfully and efficiently serve the public interest in an arrangement secured by a social contract. Finally, because they are corps intermédiaires between the public and the state, self-regulating professions are also said to play a salutary role in social cohesion. This chapter explores these aspects of the professionalism public interest theory in turn. The author's conclusion is that, while the business/profession dichotomy and social contract ideas are unsupportable, other parts of the theory cannot be so quickly dismissed. Practitioner altruism and service orientation are genuine and valuable phenomena which regulators must strive to foster. Self-regulation has plausible advantages over co-regulation in so doing, in addition to other potential advantages. ‘Professionalism’ is ubiquitous in the North American legal literature. The word appears in the titles of dozens of law review articles every year. It can signify a set of personal values,a social phenomenon observable in work organization,or a work identity espoused by certain people.

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