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The implications of AI on legal regulators and how they can use it

At last year’s ICLR Annual Conference in The Hague, ICLR member came together to present on the implications of AI on legal regulators and how they might harness this technology to their advantage. Panelists drew from input from ICLR members and how their own institutions were engaging with Artificial Intelligence, as shown in the infographic below:

The presentation cover various aspects, including:

  • What is Artificial Intelligence? … And what it isn’t: Steve Wilson, Standpoint Decision Support
  • What are the Potential Risks to be Managed: Bridget Gramme, Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego School of Law
  • How Legal Regulators can use AI: Crispin Passmore, Solicitors Regulation Authority
  • Getting into Artificial Intelligence: Alison Hook, Hook Tangaza

You can access the full presentation here:  ICLR Artificial Intelligence Presentation


Interested in the impact of new technologies on regulation? Get involved at this year’s annual conference. Contact Jim McKay (jamesmckay@lawscot.org.uk) to become involved as a speaker or session moderator. 

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Transparency lies at the heart of Consumer Satisfaction

In January, the Legal Services Board (LSB) of England & Wales released its “Regulatory Performance: Transitional Assessment Review” looking at the transitional assessment of each legal services regulatory body against the LSB’s regulatory performance standards. The report found that it had “sufficient assurance that the regulatory bodies have met the minimum required level of performance against the majority of expected outcomes”.

Transparency across the legal services market lies at the heart of consumer satisfaction. Recent Competition and Market Authority statistics found that before choosing their legal service provider 85% of consumers want better access to information, 53% want information about price, and 37% of consumers what to know about the quality of the service they would receive. In response, the Solicitors Regulation Authority released new price transparency rules, which requires regulated firms to publish price and service information on their websites.

Since 6 December 2018, all solicitors firms had to publish cost information in relation to conveyancing, probate, debt, employment and immigration. The new rules dictate that firms must provide a total cost or an average or range of costs, as well as explain the basis of these charges, including any hourly rate or fixed fees. Firms also must be clear on whether VAT is included, while also highlighting likely disbursements, and their costs. Any conditional or damages-based fees must be fully explained to clients who may have to make payments.

In addition to price transparency, firms are also required to ensure consumers under stand the services they require and are receiving. The rules demand firms

  • Explain what services are included for the quoted price
  • Highlight any services not included within the price, which a client may reasonably expect to be
  • Include information on key stages and typical timescales of these, and
  • Publish the qualifications and experience of anyone carrying out the work and of their supervisors.

SRA’s ‘Looking to the Future’ programme is based on a sound argument that law firms must become more transparent if they are to survive. Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “Publishing information on price, services and protections will not only benefit the public, but will also help law firms win new business. Research shows that people struggle to find clear information about the services firms offer and think using a solicitor is more expensive than it actually is. We are providing guidance and support for firms to help them meet the new requirements and make the most of the opportunities they bring.”

The SRA has taken consumer protection and transparency a step further, introducing a new Digital Badge. Provided via software which will make sure only regulated firms can display it, the badge will show online visitors which firms are regulated and provide them with a link to information on the protections this provides. Displaying the badge will help firms differentiate themselves from unregulated providers. Use of the badge is initially voluntary but will become a mandatory requirement during 2019.

Challenges of Transparency

Due to the business structures of many law firms, publishing fees is no straightforward matter, leading to some to use a confusing blend of charts, costs schedules, calculators and costs estimates. It is the unknown factors of pursuing legal cases which can alter costs. Russell Conway, senior partner at Oliver Fisher, notes, “It’s the wiggle room issue which is going to be the bellwether as to how successful this project is”.

Price transparency undoubtedly remains vital to consumer protection and satisfaction. However, there are concerns that some consumers may be heavily influenced by price, rather than by skill and expertise. David Kirwan questions if, in a new transparent pricing environment, consumers will truly stop and weigh skills and expertise, rather than revert to low costs. These concerns are not isolated to the UK market, as globally practitioners have expressed concerns about an eventual ‘race to the bottom’. Kirwan notes that “How we as an industry respond, and the way in which we convince consumers that it’s worth potentially paying more to receive a high-quality service, will be crucial if we are to retain the high standards for which this country’s legal sector has become known”.

Complaints Transparency

In considering the question of quality of legal services, greater transparency and public access to disciplinary records is also needed. One of the key findings of the LSB report highlighted that regulators must continue to maintain records of disciplinary sanctions in their official registers. The SRA has issued guidance to help firms clearly understand their obligations under Rule 2.1 of the SRA Transparency Rules to publish complaints. This guidance includes information on complaints handling procedure details, how and when a complaint can be made to the Legal Ombudsman, and details about how and when a complaint can be made to the SRA. Sarah Chambers, chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) stated that “Making enforcement data available to consumers is an area that will particularly benefit from consistency in approach”.

Ultimately, providing the public with as much clarity and information as possible when it comes to the legal services they require can benefit not only the consumer, but promote and ensure quality and competence of the industry as a whole. The new transparency rules promulgated by the SRA in December 2018 will improve public access to legal services, ensuring such information on legal service providers is readily available to consumers.


Interested in transparency and enforcement? Contact us and share what is happening in your jurisdiction. There are also opportunities to get involved with the topic at the annual conference. Contact Jim McKay (jamesmckay@lawscot.org.uk) to become involved as a speaker or session moderator.

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Indiana professional rules limit lawyers’ speech about judges

The Indiana Lawyer has released an article tackling one of the legal sector’s most contentious issues – Rule of Professional Conduct 8.2(a), which governs lawyers’ speech about judges. Lawyers, it seems, don’t want to address the topic for fear of being perceived as speaking critically of the judiciary, while judges seemingly don’t want to discuss situations where they feel they have been unfairly criticized. According to an Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law professor, the unease surrounding Rule 8.2(a) is not a matter of respect, but rather a matter of lawyer fear. Professor Margaret Tarkington takes a deep dive into caselaw surrounding lawyer speech and related discipline and concludes that rules similar to 8.2(a) can cause attorneys to stay tight-lipped even in the face of judicial misconduct.

Read the full article from Indiana Lawyer Here

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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

Platform Economy in Legal Profession: An Empirical Study on Online Legal Service Providers in China

Platform economy breaks into the legal profession by pooling lawyers with different specializations into a simple user-friendly platform, consolidating the lower-tier supply side of the legal market and generating economy of scale. This paper is the very first empirical piece looking into China’s online legal service portals. It is found that, the intermediary functions of the portals as the “matchmaker” between the supply and the demand side are often commingled with certain substantive legal services, which cannot be easily unbundled from each other. Given the grand information asymmetry in legal service provision and the potential importance the users may attach to the portals’ recommendation, the quality of such intermediation and matchmaking still leaves to be desired. This being said, because the portals help to improve the access to justice in China by virtue of offering an EXTRA channel for acquiring and comparing potentially useful information, which is made available at a much lower cost than visiting a physical law firm, the regulator should strive to improve the quality, rather than block up the source of the information. To that end, this paper proposes, based on the inspiration of the ABS regime, an alternative license for these online legal service providers, which imposes minimum regulatory and leaves room for new innovative business structures to evolve.

Full Paper Available Here

Jing Li, Tilburg University – Department of Business Law

Regulating Law Firms from the Inside: The Role of Compliance Officers for Legal Practice in England and Wales

Following the Legal Services Act 2007, which permitted the delivery of legal services through Alternative Business Structures (ABS), the Solicitors Regulation Authority required all regulated legal service firms to appoint Compliance Officers for Legal Practice (COLPs). COLPs are charged with taking reasonable steps to ensure that firms comply with their obligations, which entails interpreting what outcomes‐focused regulation (OFR) requires of the firm. Yet despite their importance, little is known about how compliance roles operate within legal service firms. We addressed this gap through a series of qualitative interviews that explored COLPs’ views of their roles, their attitudes to regulation, in particular to OFR, and to achieving compliance. We found that COLPs are a key regulatory mechanism in the context of firm‐based regulation and OFR and have a critical role to play in protecting and promoting professional values in both ABS and non‐ABS entities.

Full Paper Available Here

Sundeep Aulakh, University of Leeds – Work and Employment Relations & Joan Loughrey, University of Leeds

Regulation Tomorrow: What Happens When Technology is Faster than the Law?

In an age of constant, complex and disruptive technological innovation, knowing what, when, and how to structure regulatory interventions has become more difficult. Regulators find themselves in a situation where they believe they must opt for either reckless action (regulation without sufficient facts) or paralysis (doing nothing). Inevitably in such a case, caution tends to trump risk. But such caution merely functions to reinforce the status quo and makes it harder for new technologies to reach the market in a timely or efficient manner. The solution: lawmaking and regulatory design needs to become more proactive, dynamic, and responsive. So how can regulators actually achieve these goals? What can regulators do to promote innovation and offer better opportunities to people wanting to build a new business around a disruptive technology or simply enjoy the benefits of a disruptive new technology as a consumer?

Full Paper Available Here

Mark Fenwick, Kyushu University – Graduate School of Law; Wulf A. Kaal, University of St. Thomas, Minnesota – School of Law; Erik P. M. Vermeulen, Tilburg University – Department of Business Law

A step closer to law firm regulation in British Columbia

The Law Society of British Columbia is considering regulating law firms for more efficient and effective regulation.  At their meeting on December 8, 2017, the Benchers* approved the recommendations of the second interim report of the Law Firm Regulation Task Force as amended at the meeting and resolved to initiate them through a pilot project that will be rolled out in 2018.  More details of this project will be posted to the Law Society’s website as they become available.

Read the full background to this initiative

* Benchers establish the Law Society Rules, the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia and board policies, including governance policies. The Benchers also oversee the implementation and administration of programs carried out by the Law Society staff.

Legal Services Regulation at the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society: a progress update

The journey to Legal Services Regulation (LSR) has taken a major step with the November 17, 2017 approval by Council of several regulatory amendments to advance the Society’s initiatives. The result is a model of regulating legal services that is risk focused, proactive, principled and proportionate. Key components of the regime and the impacts on law firms are outlined on the NSBS website.

The NSBS continues to work with government so that amendments to the Legal Profession Act will be introduced in the spring of 2018. With the proposed provisions, the Society will then have the full range of authority required to fully implement the policies previously approved by Council to enable better promotion of the public interest and the expansion of innovative legal services.

An essential component of the Society’s transformed Legal Services Regulation framework is an enhanced focus on risk. By risk, the NSBS means ensuring that:

  • lawyers and firms are able to achieve the ten elements of a management system for ethical legal practice;
  • lawyers engage in conduct that reduces risks to the public; and
  • the Society identifies and responds to these risks in a proactive, principled and proportionate way, and achieves their Regulatory Objectives and Outcomes.

Developing and embedding a risk focus in the Society’s regulatory work is unfolding on a variety of levels, requiring both internal and external culture changes, as well as changing the conversation with lawyers to offer support and to work collaboratively to reduce risk.

Read more about the NSBS approach to risk and the steps that are underway to embed a risk-focused approach in their regulatory system.

Equity and Diversity in Nova Scotia’s Entity Regulation Management System

This paper was prepared for the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society as part of its programme to transform regulation. The paper sets out the equity mandate of the Society, and emphasizes that institutional continuity requires these values not be lost in the transition to entity regulation. It articulates the case for equity and diversity in entity regulation, and demonstrates that equity is fundamental in achieving access to justice. It identifies opportunities for equity and diversity to inform the regulatory framework, and discusses next steps to ensure equity becomes internalized both at the Society and within the entities it regulates.

Equity and Diversity in Nova Scotia