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SRA launches legal access challenge

Legal Access Challenge launched to encourage innovation

  • Six in 10 don’t think the legal system in England and Wales is set up for ordinary people
  • Many who experience a legal problem don’t take professional advice, citing cost and trust as key barriers
  • Eight in 10 say it needs to be easier for people to access legal guidance and advice
  • We are partnering with Nesta Challenges to launch a prize to make legal support more accessible and affordable through new technology

New research from Nesta Challenges reveals six in ten (58%) people in England and Wales think the legal system is not set up for ordinary people, with the vast majority wanting it to be easier for people to access legal support.

The research was conducted to mark the launch of the Legal Access Challenge – a new prize we are running in partnership with Nesta Challenges – which aims to help more people access legal services through new technology.

The survey also found one in seven (15%) people in England and Wales have experienced a legal issue in the last 10 years; although with only half (51%) of all respondents confident they can identify whether a problem is a legal matter, this is likely to be far higher. We know from existing data that very few people seek professional advice from a solicitor or barrister when they have a problem1, and the research showed people are instead turning to friends and family (20%) or Google (16%) for legal advice.

When asked about barriers to accessing legal advice, seven in ten (68%) say the high cost, followed by the uncertainty of the cost (56%) and knowing who to trust (37%). The vast majority (79%) believe it needs to be easier for people to access legal guidance and advice for themselves.

There is a widespread belief that technology could be the solution to this, with six in 10 (59%) saying they think technology could lead to better services to help people resolve their legal problems. People believe that the biggest benefits to using a digital service for legal advice would be having a fixed price upfront for legal fees (38%), being able to understand their rights (26%) and having access to cheaper legal advice and information (23%).

Part of our wider programme to drive innovation in the sector, the Legal Access Challenge will offer £250,000 in grants to help innovators develop new technology solutions to help make legal advice more affordable and accessible for the majority.

Chris Gorst, Head of Better Markets, Nesta Challenges, said: “For too many people, legal support and advice seems out of reach and reserved for those with the time and money to navigate a complex legal system.

“Technology is not a panacea, but in many areas of our lives it has transformed the choice, convenience and quality available to us and this could be true in legal services too. The UK is a world leader in both technology and legal services, and there is a huge economic and social opportunity in bringing these together.

“We are launching the Legal Access Challenge to help demonstrate what technology can do and to bring these new solutions to market. We want to see digital solutions that directly support individuals and small businesses to access legal services conveniently and affordably, and which can help close the ‘legal gap’ we currently face.”

Nesta Challenges is part of Nesta, the innovation charity, and offers financial prizes to stimulate innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges society faces. The team works with regulators, policymakers and others to help make markets more competitive and open, advising on how regulatory reforms and targeted public investment programmes can work together to achieve greater impact.

Anna Bradley, Chair of the SRA Board, said: “Whether they are dealing with a personal legal matter , or running a business, people need to be able to get legal support when it really matters.

“Having access to professional advice is important at those life changing moments. And for small businesses, it can make the difference between success and failure.

“There are real barriers for people looking for help and the innovative use of technology is one way of tackling those barriers.

“We want our regulation to support new ideas. The Legal Access Challenge can help to drive the development of new approaches which will deliver tangible benefits to the public, opening up access to legal services for as many people as possible.”

The Legal Access Challenge is open to entrants until 11 August 2019. More information can be found at www.legalaccesschallenge.org

Colorado Lawyer Self-Assessment Program yields analytical insights

Colorado Supreme Court Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel started developing its lawyer self-assessment program more than two years ago, immediately after a seminal workshop on proactive, risk-based regulation at the 41st ABA National Conference of Professional Responsibility in May 2015. The new resource is a leading facet of a larger shift toward proactive management-based regulation, which aims to help lawyers practice ethically and soundly in the first place, rather than just reactively imposing discipline after lawyers make mistakes.

The new system provides the regulatory team with real time stats on lawyer engagement and self-assessed professional performance. It highlights the professional objectives scoring the highest and lowest across all respondents, providing the team with evidence to support further educational program development. The platform also has the ability to create customized lists of continuing legal education (CLE) resources based on each respondent’s own personal benchmarks and areas of need. These lists make yearly CLE planning fast and easy for lawyers, and keeps them focused on the most effective resources for their needs.

Jon White, staff attorney at the regulator, writes “The practice of law will always be challenging. The “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” approach of the proactive practice program seeks to reduce some of that stress. The self-assessments give lawyers the blueprint to build an ethical infrastructure. Lawyers, in turn, benefit from enhanced peace of mind. Clients benefit from exceptional service. It is a win-win for all.” The insights generated by the program’s data is informing the regulator where practitioners need more assistance, and where there may be weaker points in the sector as a whole. Staying ahead of this issues protects the public and strengthens the jurisdiction as a whole.

Read more about Colorado’s Lawyer Self-Assessment Program Here

 

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Education and Training in Ireland

In response to the report on Education and Training in Ireland published on 19 November by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA), the Law Society of Ireland has launched the Peart Commission Report, developed by an expert group chaired by Mr Justice Michael Peart of the Court of Appeal.

The report contains 30 recommendations setting out a vision for the future of solicitor training in Ireland. Law Society of Ireland Director General Ken Murphy said, ‘training solicitors to meet any and all challenges they will face in their careers is some of the most important work the Law Society does. Mr Murphy explained, ‘implementing the Peart Commission recommendations will have several benefits. It will further increase access to the profession for trainees across diverse educational, professional and socio-economic backgrounds and ensure the Law Society maintains its prominent position as an innovative professional legal educator globally.’ He added, ‘the Law Society’s education model is deeply rooted in the public interest and focussed on the future.’

Law Society Report Available Here

LSRA Report Available Here*

*This report was required by the Legal Services Act 2015 and is the first step in a comprehensive review which will involve further public consultation in 2019.

New Skills for New Lawyers: Responding to Technology and Practice Developments

The legal profession is facing a convergence of forces, most notably significant advances in the capabilities of technology, economic pressures challenging existing business models and globalisation, that herald momentous change to the practice of law. In Australia the lead in seeking to understand these developments and formulate responses has been taken by the Law Society of New South Wales and its report on the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP). The Law Society conducted a commission of inquiry which culminated in the recognition of skills or areas of knowledge that were identified as essential for the successful future practice of law. In short, this involves two main inter-related streams of knowledge: first, the ability to understand and employ technology, and second a collection of skills that result in a “practice-ready” graduate, namely: • Practice Skills (both interpersonal skills and professional skills) • Business Skills • Project Management • Internationalisation and Cross-Border Practice of Law • Inter-disciplinary experience • Resilience While technology is in many ways the ‘headline act’ there are also a range of other skills that are required because of the changes technology is facilitating and the need for lawyers to focus on what is central to their role or truly provides value to the client. This article discusses and elaborates on the findings of the FLIP inquiry in relation to legal education.

Paper Available Here

Michael Legg, University of New South Wales (UNSW) – Faculty of Law

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Singapore’s Ministry of Law Accepts Recommendation to Strengthen Professional Training of Lawyers

The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) announced on 30 August 2018 that it has accepted in principle the recommendations of the Committee for the Professional Training of Lawyers on strengthening the professional training regime for lawyers in Singapore. The key recommendations include: (a) uncoupling admission to the Bar from the completion of a practice training contract; (b) lengthening the practice training period from six months to one year; and (c) raising the standard and stringency of Part B of the Singapore Bar Examinations. The Committee also made 17 other specific recommendations to address discrete issues within the professional training regime. The implementation of these recommendations will help raise the quality of legal training and better equip law graduates with the necessary expertise to meet the demands of the future economy and society.

MinLaw will work with stakeholders, including the Law Society of Singapore and the Singapore Institute of Legal Education, on the implementation of the recommendations. The three key recommendations will be implemented from the 2023 session of Part B of the Singapore Bar Examinations onwards, to give the industry time to adjust. The majority of students currently in law school will not be affected by these changes.

Read more in the MinLaw Press Release

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Event: 2018 Legislative Drafting Conference

13-14 September 2018

The Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice is hosting its bi-annual Legislative Drafting Conference – “Charting Legislative Courses in a Complex World”. The Conference will tackle one of the most pervasive challenges in modern legislation: complexity, beginning with its principal drivers in public policy. Why does our world generate legislative complexity? And how can legislation address this complexity intelligibly, coherently and effectively? Conference sessions will also focus on examples of today’s complexity challenges in international trading relationships, cannabis de-criminalization and the interaction of state law with indigenous legal traditions. Other sessions will focus on pragmatic drafting solutions to particular facets of these challenges, such as interjurisdictional coherence, resolving policy blockages, drafting for clients with limited policy-resources and achieving legislative coherence over time. The conference will include a wide range of speakers from Canada, the UK and beyond.

13-14 September 2018

Ottawa, Ontario

Read the Program Here

Register Here

Solicitors Regulation Authority Assessment Organisation Appointed

The SRA has appointed Kaplan as the assessment organisation to develop and run the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).

Selected following a rigorous, year-long process, Kaplan provides education, training and assessment across professional services, including in law, financial services, accountancy and banking. It has direct experience of assessment within the legal sector in England and Wales as the provider of the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS). Kaplan will not provide training for the SQE.

The SRA and Kaplan will work with stakeholders from across the legal and education sectors to develop and test the SQE. Kaplan will then run the SQE on our behalf. They have been appointed for a period of eight years from the introduction of the SQE.

The SQE will provide a single common assessment for all aspiring solicitors. It will be introduced, at the earliest, in September 2020. The costs of the assessment will be determined once the final design is fixed, although we are aiming to provide guidance on indicative costs before then.

Full Press Release Here

Bar Standards Board explains how it assures competence at the Bar

Following its decision last year not to implement the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA), the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published more detail about how it assures the competence of barristers.

The approach reflects the BSB’s move in the last few years to become a more risk- and evidence-based regulator that takes better targeted action to maintain standards of practice at the Bar. This means that more focused regulation can be introduced where concerns about professional competence have been identified – for example, the recently introduced competence and registration requirements in relation to Youth Court advocacy.

As well as specific targeted regulation, the BSB’s approach to assuring standards includes a range of additional measures that have already been implemented. These include:

  • the regulator’s Future Bar Training reforms that include a clearly defined set of knowledge, skills and attributes expected of all newly qualified barristers on their first day of practice, as specified in the Professional Statement for Barristers;
  • the introduction in 2017 of the new Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme for experienced barristers which, aligned with robust monitoring by the regulator, places greater responsibility on individual barristers to reflect upon their learning and development, set learning objectives and review them annually; and
  • existing regulatory controls stemming from a requirement in the BSB Handbook that barristers should not undertake work unless competent to do so.

The paper published today also explains how the BSB uses external indicators of the profession’s competence to inform its regulatory approach. These include existing measures of barristers’ competence such as the processes for reviewing the quality of barristers to join specialist panels like the Treasury Panel or for appointment as a QC.

Read more on this from the BSB

The Legal Profession in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Since the 1979 Revolution, the clerical regime in Iran has been limiting the legal profession’s autonomy by preventing members of the Iranian Bar Association (IBA) from freely electing their Board of Directors and by establishing a new body of lawyers — legal advisors of the judiciary — to contest the IBA’s professional monopoly. Clerics have even attempted to bring the legal profession under the control of the Ministry of Justice and merge it with the legal advisors. The IBA’s struggle to remain a civil society organisation independent of the judiciary offers a vantage point from which to explore the role of the legal profession in Iranian society and the legal system of the Islamic Republic. Why does the Iranian judiciary oppose an independent legal profession, and why does the profession refuse to capitulate? What are the implications of this ongoing conflict for the legal order of the Islamic Republic, whose political elite consists mainly of Islamic jurists? What are the socio-cultural consequences of undermining the integrity and autonomy of the legal profession? These questions will guide our inquiry.

Download full paper

Citation: Banakar, Reza and Ziaee, Keyvan, The Legal Profession in the Islamic Republic of Iran (April 29, 2018). Lawyers in Society: Thirty Years On. Edited by Abel, Richard et al. Oxford: Hart Publishing, Forthcoming.

Training Lawyer-Entrepreneurs

The Great Recession has caused many new attorneys to question their decisions to go to law school. The highly publicized decline in employment opportunities for lawyers has called into question the value of obtaining a law degree. The tightening of the economy has diminished the availability of entry-level jobs for law graduates across employment sectors. Large law firms are laying-off lawyers, bringing in smaller first year associate classes, hiring more contract and experienced lateral attorneys. Government entities and public interest organizations have suffered furloughs, and hiring freezes, and are relying more on volunteers than on new employees to get the work done. To complicate matters, the baby boomer generation of lawyers is retiring later and contributing to a lack of new job opportunities. As a result, a large number of recent law graduates are unemployed, under-employed, or are working in settings that do not require a bar license. James G. Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), reported that “members of the law school graduating classes of 2009 and 2010 have faced the worst entry-level legal employment market in 50 years and perhaps ever, and the market for the classes of 2011 and those that will follow is likely forever changed.” The latest figures released by 198 of the 201 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) confirm Leipold’s prediction. Only 55% of law students graduating in 2011 reported having full-time, long-term jobs requiring a law degree, at nine months after graduation. The change in the job market masks a long standing but rarely recognized reality. Law jobs, particularly for new attorneys, have never been abundant.

Historically, most attorneys in the United States have created their own jobs by establishing solo and small law firms. The latest ABA market research indicates that about three-fourths of all attorneys work in private practice. Of those attorneys, almost half identify as solo practitioners and approximately 14% work in small law offices with five or less lawyers. ABA market research found that in 2005, only 16% of attorneys in private practice work in law firms of more than 100 attorneys. In fact, the number of lawyers in private practice working in law firms of more than 50 attorneys has never accounted for even one-fifth of the private bar. Attorney demographics confirm that the majority of lawyers in private practice are self-employed. Regardless of the large number of lawyers in solo practice, few law graduates enter the profession understanding the opportunities and challenges of starting their own law firms.

The reality of self-employment has not been well-received by many new graduates. Fewer opportunities in the job market have spawned blogs, editorials, articles and letters from and about angry and greatly disappointed new lawyers who viewed law school as their ticket to a six-figure salary upon graduation, but instead found poor job prospects and student debt equivalent to a home mortgage. A group of law graduates initiated lawsuits against their law schools alleging, among other things, misrepresentation and fraud. Although the particular claims of the lawsuits vary, all of them accuse law schools of reporting exaggerated employment statistics in order to lure prospective students into law schools. As a result of the public dissatisfaction of recent law graduates and the high cost of legal education, the number of applications to ABA accredited law schools declined in 2011. In December 2012, the Law School Admissions Council reported an additional decline of 22%.

The future of the legal profession is uncertain. Some predict that large law firms are unlikely to rebound to pre-recession hiring. It is also not anticipated that government, academic, and public interest sectors will represent more than a small fraction of available law jobs. The most consistent and largest employment sector for lawyers will continue to be solo practice. If the largest segment of our law students will eventually work for themselves, then law schools should provide direction about what it means to be a self-employed lawyer. Like their predecessors, the self-employed lawyer of the twenty-first century must learn how to think like a lawyer and find a niche within the business of law. However, to make a living in an increasingly complex and competitive legal market, self-employed lawyers must also become lawyer-entrepreneurs.

This Article does not offer a comprehensive understanding of the study of entrepreneurship. Nor does it engage the discussion of the tension between professionalism standards and personal gain. Instead, this piece focuses on what law schools can do to help the thousands of self-employed lawyers who must embrace entrepreneurial models to survive in a competitive market. Part I of this Article considers how technology and the need for more affordable legal services require the transformation of solo attorneys into lawyer-entrepreneurs. It explores how technology and client preferences are impacting the practice of law for self-employed lawyers that address personal legal services. Part II summarizes the findings of several empirical studies that help us understand what it means to be a self-employed lawyer. It considers the challenges and opportunities of lawyers as entrepreneurs. Part III posits that Millennial generation lawyers are good candidates to become lawyer-entrepreneurs. It contemplates a future where Millennial lawyer-entrepreneurs, if properly supported, can exploit technology to increase access to justice and achieve their personal goals. Part IV documents a sample of existing and emerging efforts by law schools to train self-employed lawyers. This section focuses specifically on the emergence of networks supporting solo and small firm lawyers, attorney incubator programs and post-graduate residencies. Part V offers recommendations for law schools committed to advancing the training of lawyer-entrepreneurs. The perspective offered here is informed by my experience launching a solo practice in 2002, my involvement in a national conversation about the lack of affordable legal services, as a mentor to lawyers starting their law practices, and is supported by empirical research.

Download full paper

Citation: Herrera, Luz E., Training Lawyer-Entrepreneurs (August 2012). Denver University Law Review, Vol. 89, No. 4, 2012.