Shenzhen Lawyers Association launches legal service directory

As part of an ongoing effort to specialise and promote legal business skills in the region, the Shenzhen Lawyers Association has recently launched a legal services directory, to more effectively allow consumers to purchase legal services. The directory currently includes 331 different legal service products and providers, with 27 different categories, including family law, labour, real estate, intellectual property and environmental law as well as areas more specific to the region, such as public-private partnership law and internet finance. As well as this, providers are required to include indicative costs, fee structures and schedules of work for different types of matters. The goal being to promote access to justice, increase consumer knowledge and promote trust in legal services.

Alongside this the association has launched new professional standards for lawyers, these are focused on business skills and practice management. The standards have been developed to promote confidence in professional management of matters, alongside existing legal skills.

Read more about the directory and standards here (Available via google translate).

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Canadian Bar Association report on justice and COVID-19

During the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) AGM, held on the 18th February 2021, the CBA released its new report on COVID-19 and the justice system ‘No Turning Back’. The report, which was produced by a special task force, has concluded that there can be no return to the way things worked in the legal profession and the justice systems before the pandemic.

The report suggests that the pandemic has brought changes to the Canadian legal profession which have been long-awaited. The report includes a number of recommendations, to the CBA, around continuing and building on these changes in order to create a more innovative and effective justice system, which the population can have confidence in. Its recommendations include:

  • Collaborate with domestic and international justice system partners on best practices
  • Ensure that changes enhance access to justice instead of detracting from it by minimizing unintended consequences, including breaches of privacy
  • Consider the impact on marginalized groups of implementing AI and other emerging technologies

The task force, established in April, 2020, brought together CBA members and justice system partners from across the country to assess the immediate and evolving issues for the delivery of legal services resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

CBA President, and task force Co-Chair, Brad Regehr has said “The pandemic kick-started a modernization of the way the legal profession and the justice system provide services – something the CBA has been advocating for a long time. We now need to make sure these changes are sustainable and that they are properly implemented to enhance access to justice. ”

Read the full report here. 

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NOvA launches new platform on diversity

The Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten (NOvA), has recently introduced a new platform designed to promote an inclusive and diverse bar. In 2018, the NOvA drew up a diversity and inclusion statement, the platform is designed to implement and practice some of the recommendations that came out from the statement.  There are currently 37 lawyers who are signed up to the platform.

Together with the NOvA, the participating lawyers in working groups will investigate options and put forward proposals for promoting (awareness of) diversity and inclusion within the legal profession. Issues such as:

  • How can we ensure that more law students with different cultural and/or ethnic backgrounds feel attracted to the legal profession?
  • Once they join the bar, how do we ensure that they stay?
  • Wider issues in the field of inclusion and diversity within the legal profession?

In addition to (online) meetings, a digital community is being developed for mutual communication and knowledge sharing between the platform participants.

Read more about the platform here (in Dutch).

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Legal Sector Affinity Group for England and Wales publishes new guidance on anti-money laundering and SRA sectoral risk assesment

The Legal Sector Affinity Group (LSAG) which is made up of representatives from the different regulatory and representative bodies in the legal profession, releases information and guidance for legal services professionals. The LSAG 2020 guidance provides a detailed commentary on recently amended UK regulations on money laundering (as well as the 2017 regulations).

The LSAG guidance provides an update to material previously published in 2018, updating the content to match the new regulatory environment. Key changes in the new publication include:

  • Expanded guidance on understanding source of funds and source of wealth
  • A new section addressing the need for firms to understand the technology they are using
  • Clarifications on high-risk sectors, accepting cash into the client account, customer due diligence (CDD) on referrals from another legal practice, timing of CDD/exceptions
  • Discrepancy reporting to Companies House, and other relevant registries from new duty/obligations introduced from January 2020

As well as this the SRA have produced further guidance, in light of a UK Government risk assessment, published in December, producing a legal sector-specific money laundering risk assessment, focused on the specific challenges of the sector.

Juliet Oliver, SRA General Counsel, said: ‘Tackling money laundering is a priority for all of us and we know the vast majority of firms are committed to keeping the proceeds of crime out of the profession. These documents offer comprehensive information on some of the better ways to achieve this. Our sectoral risk assessment identifies and discusses the biggest issues and emerging threats currently facing providers of legal services as they look to combat money launderers. It is complemented by the LSAG guidance, which covers all the bases of the 2017 regulations, plus a thorough review of how regulations and expectations on firms have evolved since then.’

Read the LSAG guidance here, or the SRA’s risk assessment here. 

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Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society introduces new succession planning professional standard

The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society (NSBS) has introduced a new Succession Planning Professional Standard, effective from the 2nd February 2021. The standard comes as the result of a working group launched in 2017 appointed to consider the implications for the profession if lawyers and firms do not have effective plans in place for practice interruption.

Following a consultation process launched in May 2018, the society’s council approved amendments to the NSBS Regulations, made pursuant to the Legal Profession Act, to include a requirement for lawyers and law firms to develop and maintain succession plans for all lawyers associated with the firm.

The Society has taken the decision to develop resources and support to help lawyers and firms realise these obligations in ways that make sense for their practices and circumstances, rather than taking a compliance-driven approach. Initiatives include a succession planning toolkit, as well as assistance from the society, and meeting to help lawyers work through any issues.

View the new standard here, or read more about the society’s introduction of the standard here.

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Legal Services Board releases options on ongoing competence

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has published anew report on ongoing competence in the legal services sector. Confirming that it plans to develop this thinking further and consult on how competence can be assured over the course of a lawyer’s career. In the report the LSB points out that whilst legal regulators have comprehensive measures on entry into the profession, however there are few checks to ensure that competence is maintained.

The report was produced following the call for evidence that was carried out in 2020. It has been compiled using extensive discussions with stakeholders across and outside the legal services sector. It also considers approaches taken in other sectors such as financial services, aviation, healthcare, engineering and teaching, which generally have more systematic ongoing competence checks.

From its research, the LSB has concluded that most consumers mistakenly assume that lawyers are subject to regular formal checks. It has suggested that this leads to a misalignment between the current practice and what the public expects. This is why the decision has been made that ensuring legal professionals’ ongoing competence is vital to ensuring consumers’ trust and confidence in the sector. The LSB’s view is that this would also help consumers avoid harm from poor quality legal services.

In its role as the oversight regulator, the LSB has a statutory duty to assist in developing regulatory standards in the legal sector. In the report, the LSB explains that it will proceed to develop and consult on new expectations for regulators, noting that these proposals are likely to encompass high-level expectations that legal regulators should:

  • set out the standards of competence that legal professionals should meet at the point of entry and throughout their careers; and
  • have mechanisms in place to:
    • identify legal professionals who are failing to meet those standards;
    • identify areas of increased risk to consumers;
    • respond when legal professionals fall short of the standards of competence;
    • provide appropriate protection when there is an increased risk of harm to consumers.

Helen Phillips, Chair of the Legal Services Sector, said:

‘Public trust and confidence are integral to the credibility of the legal services sector, and consumers need to know that their lawyers have the necessary, up-to-date skills, knowledge and attributes to help them with their legal problems. Many people assume that legal professionals are subject to ongoing formal reviews of their competence, but there are, in fact, very few routine checks once a lawyer has qualified. Legal regulators typically do not have systems or processes in place to identify or respond to concerns about competence. This is unusual and out of step with other professions which routinely adopt tools to ensure ongoing competence to promote public trust and confidence, and protect consumers from harm. We need to reshape legal services to better meet the needs of society, which includes ensuring lawyers remain competent throughout their careers. This will help increase trust in legal services, raise standards and improve access to justice.’

Read the full report here, or the LSBs comments here.

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ABA releases first model diversity survey report on law firm equity and inclusion

On the 16th February, the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession today released its 2020 ABA Model Diversity Survey Report, the first report focused on diversity, equity and inclusion within law firm practices in the USA.

The Model Diversity Survey (MDS), was developed in 2016, and is designed to give clients the tools to review and assess diversity, equity and inclusion of the legal service providers and to make decisions regarding hiring and retention. It assesses firm policies, practices and outcomes regarding hiring, attrition, promotion, leadership, work schedules and compensation. The MDS Report includes 2017-19 data from more than 370 law firms.

Some of the findings of the survey were that:

  • Firm leadership was overwhelmingly made up of white men relative to white women and racial, LGBTQ+ and disabled minorities of any gender identity.
  • Hires and promotions/attrition suggest that representation of minority groups is growing at the bottom levels of associates but is declining at the higher levels of non-equity and equity partners.
  • Attrition rates were substantially larger for nonwhite attorneys (e.g., nearly three times larger for African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino attorneys) relative to white attorneys.
  • The percentage of white associates promoted to equity partner was slightly higher than the percentage of white associates promoted to non-equity partner. This pattern was reversed for female associates, and the associates of all other racial minority groups which displayed larger percentages promoted to non-equity partner than to equity partner.
  • Minority males and females consistently ranged between 0% to 2% of the top 10% highest-paid attorneys in law firms.

The full report can be viewed here.

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Law Society of Scotland launches new Racial Inclusion Group

The Law Society of Scotland has launched a new group on Racial Inclusion, headed up by Tatora Mukushi, a solicitor with Shelter Scotland, who has been appointed as the first convener of the group.

The group has been formed by the Law Society, with the goal of forming a better understanding of the lived and professional experiences of its Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) members and to offer recommendations on how to improve racial inclusion across the profession.

The group plans to revisit the Profile of the Profession, and to undertake a literature review of other data sources that may provide insight into improving racial inclusion; undertaking research with BAME law students, trainees and solicitors; and speaking to other stakeholders within the profession, such as firms and universities, on best practice, challenges and how to overcome such challenges. With the goal of providing a report on their findings with recommendations late in 2021.

Tatora Mukushi, convener of the Racial Inclusion Group, said: “I am personally and professionally delighted that the Law Society is tackling this issue in a genuinely participatory manner. Our group will combine analysis of historical and contemporary data with relevant lived experience in order to honestly reflect the social dilemma of racial inclusion within the profession and we hope to be able to suggest pragmatic actions to advance this progressive agenda.”

As convener of the Group, Tatora will also be the Law Society’s representative on the Scottish Government’s Cross-Justice Working Group on Race and Workforce.

Find out more about the new group here. 

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Event: The Future Is Now: Legal Services

The Future Is Now: Legal Services

Tuesday, April 27 – Thursday, April 29, 2021, from 12 – 2 p.m. CDT
Online

The fourth annual The Future Is Now conference will bring together lawyers, judges, legal academics, entrepreneurs, and other professionals from across the U.S. and internationally. The conference will explore the interplay between the changing legal profession and attorney professionalism in three areas: future law; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and well-being.

Topics will include strategies for implementing new technology in your practice; policies for successfully advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in your organization; approaches for prioritizing well-being in changing workplace structures; and navigating the continued impact of COVID-19 on the profession.

2021 conference speakers will include:

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne M. Burke
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis
Illinois Supreme Court Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Deanie Brown
Brian Cuban, a Dallas-based attorney and bestselling author of “The Addicted Lawyer”
Chicago-area attorneys and legal tech experts Alan R. Press and Caren E.I. Naidoff of the Shire Law Group

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National Conference of Bar Examiners testing taskforce recommendations for next generation of bar exams

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) testing taskforce has released preliminary recommendations as to what it feels that the next generation of bar examinations should look like. As part of its examination process, the NCBE is committed to periodic content review and design, in order to ensure high-quality licensing and examinations. The recommendations are a culmination of a 3-year study which included stakeholder interviews, and ongoing market analysis, in order to ensure lawyer competencies were being tested and were adequate for an evolving legal profession.

Based on their extensive research, the Task Force has made some high-level decisions about the content and the design for the next generation of the bar examination. Those decisions are founded on the principle that the purpose of the bar exam is designed “to protect the public by helping to ensure that those who are newly licensed possess the minimum knowledge and skills to perform activities typically required of an entry-level lawyer.”

The preliminary recommendations specify the use of an integrated examination that measures both knowledge and skills through a mix of item formats. The exam will be offered two times per year as a summative event and delivered by computer. Compensatory scoring will be used to produce a single combined score for making admission decisions.

 

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