The Centre for Ethics and Law in the UCL Faculty of Laws is undertaking a fundamental review of the current regulatory framework for legal services in England and Wales, led by Honorary Professor Stephen Mayson. The independent review is intended in part to explore the longer-term and related issues raised by the 2016 Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) ‘Legal Services market study’ and its recommendations. The interim report has just been published and is available here.
The Law Society of Hong Kong has been considering changes to their foreign lawyer practising rules for the past three years. The principal proposed changes were as follows:
- Amendments to Rule 12(1) to clarify that a foreign lawyer may only provide a legal service which relates to the law(s) of the jurisdiction(s) stated on a certificate of registration issued by the Law Society
- Changes to Rule 12(2) to clarify the circumstances in which a foreign lawyer may be involved in the process of disseminating advice concerning Hong Kong law given by a practising solicitor
- A proposal which would require international firms practising in Hong Kong to hire two domestic lawyers for each foreign lawyer, double the current quota
- A change of the period from three to five years required of a foreign firm to be established in Hong Kong prior to being entitled to convert to a Hong Kong firm
- An increase in Foreign Lawyers Registration Fees, which have remained unchanged for twenty years.
The outcome of the consultation is to proceed with the amendment exercise on the Foreign Lawyers Registration (Fees) Rules, however the Law Society Council decided against pursuing the other legislative proposals as there were concerns that doing so could adversely impact the development of the legal services market in Hong Kong.
The SRA has launched a consultation on proposals designed to make sure that high standards of advocacy are provided by solicitors.
- the introduction of revised standards for the Higher Rights of Audience qualification
- the creation of a single, centralised Higher Rights of Audience assessment
- the development of more online resources to help solicitors maintain and develop their advocacy skills
- only solicitors with Higher Rights of Audience qualification should be able to undertake advocacy in more serious cases in the youth court.
Reports such as the Ministry of Justice’s Jeffrey Review and SRA’s own judicial perceptions research have suggested judges have concerns about the competence of some of the solicitor advocates appearing before them.
New SRA research suggests that one in three solicitor firms (32%) offer criminal advocacy, mostly focusing on guilty plea and sentencing hearings. Nearly 60% of firms provide advocacy services for civil cases, 47% in areas of family law and 32% at tribunals.
Read the consultation: Assuring advocacy standards
We recently reported on the work of the California State Bar and their proposals for regulatory reform put forward by the Task Force on Access Through Innovation of Legal Services as well as the work being done by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) Testing Task Force.
In her article, ‘Re-regulating Lawyers for the 21st Century’, Jayne Reardon, Executive Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism highlights the work of a number of US State Bars, regulators and national bodies who are currently reviewing lawyer regulation issues and reflects upon how any advancements in lawyer regulation could lead to a fundamental re-structuring of the legal market. Read the full article on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s website.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), has produced a dedicated webpage of resources for solicitors to help them prepare for the introduction of their new Standards and Regulation on 25 November. The new Standards and Regulations aim to reduce bureaucracy, simplify rules and provide greater flexibility. One of the key new requirements is for all law firm websites to use the SRA clickable logo, which uses smart technology to confirm to website visitors that a specific firm is regulated and what this means for clients.
The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is a new, single assessment for qualifying solicitors and is due to be introduced by the end of 2021.
A pilot to test the first part of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination – known as SQE1 – has shown that it is on course to be a valid, rigorous assessment, while also highlighting the need for more work to see if a skills assessment is appropriate in the first stage of the exam. Candidates will need to pass SQE1, which focuses on functioning legal knowledge, before being able to move on to SQE2, which tests legal skills.
Conducted in March, by Kaplan, the SQE1 pilot was completed by a diverse group of 316 candidates at 44 locations in the UK, and in Singapore and France. Candidates took three SQE1 papers with a total of 360 single best answer questions. The second element of the SQE1 pilot tested skills, with one legal research and two legal writing exercises.
The pilot is part of the SRA and Kaplan’s wider work to develop a world class assessment. Hundreds of stakeholders have been involved in the development of the assessment so far. A pilot on SQE2 is due to run in December 2019.
The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) in Singapore, has recently launched a new programme targeting the legal industry. The educational programme is designed to help Singaporean legal professionals understand Chinese culture, business environment, legal systems and laws, as well as improving their understanding of Mandarin used in a legal context. The programme, as well as a series of secondments and networking events, is part of MinLaw’s three-pronged strategy helping to increase opportunities in the legal services market between China and Singapore.
The programme hopes to meet the growing Chinese market for legal services. China has been Singapore’s largest trading partner and Singapore has been China’s largest foreign investor for six consecutive years since 2013. Whilst in 2018, Singapore was the largest foreign investment destination for China along the Belt and Road, capturing close to 23% of total investment flow from China to Belt and Road countries. Whilst the launch is well-timed to meet the signing of the Singapore Convention on mediation.
More information on the programme, which will be developed and delivered by the Han Culture & Education Group (HCEG), which is a subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) is available here.
Newly published feedback received by the Solicitor Regulation Authority (SRA) on continuous professional development (CPD) requirements introduced in 2016 has indicated that the changes have been well received by solicitors and law firms. The requirements, known as ‘Continuing Competence’ are available in full here and include requiring solicitors to make an annual declaration of their own training and development as part of their renewal application, allowing for greater time flexibility and more targeted development.
Feedback from firms was very positive with 40 per cent of law firms reporting that the changes have increased the amount of learning and development support offered to their solicitors, 52 per cent of firms saying that levels of learning and development have remained unchanged, and only 9 per cent reporting a reduction in the focus given to this area. SRA comments are available here, whilst the full report is available here.
The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has called for the ending of the monopoly on Bar education in Kenya, following an inquiry into high rates of failure in the Bar examinations. Results from November 2018 revealed that 80 per cent of those who sat the test failed, with only 308 of the 1,572 candidates qualifying. The results led to calls for investigation into the Kenyan School of Law (KSL) which holds a monopoly on bar education in the country.
The exams which are set and marked by the Council for Legal Education (CLE) costs students KES 47,000 (USD455) on average in fees. Reports suggested that there is a lack of clarity over the content of the curriculum compared to the exam, meaning that students may find themselves being required to answer questions on topics they are unfamiliar with, as well as a lack of clarity over the relationship between KSL and CLE. Further information is available here.
The following content has been provided by the panel presenting on this topic during the morning on day 2 of ICLR 2019.
In a rapidly evolving legal landscape and digital world, legal practitioners are engaging an increasingly sophisticated clientele requiring solutions that lie at the intersection of different industry sectors. The panellists will be sharing perspectives and observations from efforts by Singapore, Canada, and Scotland to encourage innovative use of legal technology, artificial intelligence, and the related regulatory considerations.
This session will focus on the recent efforts to encourage innovation in and the use of technology in the provision of legal services, with discussion including the following:
- Perspectives on the creation and adoption of open-source legal research databases and legal technologies;
- The business, legal, and regulatory challenges posed by the use of artificial intelligence; and
- The successes and lessons learnt from existing efforts to overcome resistance to change and the use of legal technology.
Moderator: Joan Janssen, Director of Legal Services, Ministry of Law, Singapore
Panellist: Sarah Sutherland, Director Programmes and Partnerships, Canadian Legal Information Institute
Panellist: Ivan Mokanov, President, Lexum Inc.;
Panellist: John McKinlay, Convenor Technology Law and Practice Committee, Law Society of Scotland
What particularly do you hope to explore in this session? Any specific questions you hope to answer?
- Encouraging innovation through tech to ensure the flourishing of the legal industry could lead to potential under-regulation, while a focus on consumer protection may result in overregulation and stifling of development. How are these considerations balanced in the regulation of legal service providers?
- What are some key guiding principles from your respective jurisdictions that can guide the future of legal regulation in relation to the use of tech?
- How do the existing legal frameworks (or other features) of your jurisdictions encourage innovation in legal services?
- What are some examples of resistance to innovation through tech in the provision of legal services? What has worked (and what has not) to help overcome such resistance?
What do you hope to achieve with this session?
This workshop aims to engage participants in a rich discussion and sharing of experiences from various jurisdictions and regulators with regard to encouraging innovation in the provision of legal services via technology. Discussion topics include:
- Lessons learnt from efforts to overcome resistance to change and legal technology in Singapore;
- The business, legal, and regulatory challenges posed by the use of artificial intelligence in Scotland; and
- Experiences from the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) and its technology and publishing partner, Lexum Inc on open-source online legal research and legal technology.