New Zealand Law Society is reviewing its structure and function

The New Zealand Law (NZLS) is commissioning an independent review of its structure and function.  This review is necessary because the Law Society is of the opinion that the current Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 constrains its ability to be transparent about the complaints procedure, and to deal with a broad range of unacceptable behaviour, including complaints of sexual harassment and bullying within the profession.

The review will draw upon local and international experiences to consider possible future models for the provision and regulation of legal services in Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as the best model to provide membership services to practising lawyers.

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LSRA announces the introduction of LLPs in Ireland and new complaints procedure

Law firms in Ireland are now able to set up limited liability partnerships (LLPs), following the commencement of a section of the 2015 Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) Act.  As of October, the LSRA also took on responsibility for the complaints procedure governing solicitors and barristers in Ireland.  Complaints made prior to October against solicitors and barristers will continue to be investigated by their respective professional bodies, but all new complaints will be examined by a process overseen by the LSRA.

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BSB modernises its regulatory decision-making

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has taken a number of steps to modernise its regulatory decision-making.  Recent changes include:

  • A new edition of its handbook – introducing new Enforcement Decision Regulations
  • The establishment of a new Independent Decision-making Body (IDB)
  • The creation of a new Independent Reviewer role to carry out requests for the review of individual decisions
  • The launch of a new website to make it easier for the profession and the public to access the information they need. It includes dedicated sections for the public, for students and for barristers and other legal professionals, containing everything they need to know about BSB rules and guidance.

Read more about these changes…

Legal Market Landscape Report (July 2018)

Commissioned by the State Bar of California, July 2018, Professor William D. Henderson

The Bar contracted with Professor William D. Henderson to conduct a landscape analysis of the current state of the legal services market, including new technologies and business models used in the delivery of legal services, with a special focus on enhancing access to justice.  The report is the first step in the
Bar’s study of delivery of legal services through the use of technology.

Read the report…

Outcome of Hong Kong foreign lawyers consultation

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.

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Lawyer regulation reforms in the US

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.

 

 

State Bar of California seeking public comments on regulatory reforms

The State Bar of California is seeking public comment on proposals for regulatory reform put forward by the Task Force on Access Through Innovation of Legal Services. The task force was set up to improve access to justice through regulatory reform, following a report in 2018 that suggested that regulation was limiting innovations which could improve the public availability of legal services (report available here). The task-force has unveiled sixteen concepts for regulatory reform, including allowing non-lawyers to hold financial interests in a  legal practice, and permitting fee-sharing between lawyers and non-lawyers. The Bar has now opened the options up to comment and they would appreciate the views of foreign regulators on their proposals.

The consultation closes on the 23rd September 2019. Full details of the consultation are available here.

LSB updates governance rules to “enhance regulatory independence”

A new set of rules have been released by the Legal Services Board (LSB), which aim to clarify the separation between representative bodies and their regulators. The internal governance rules (IGRs) have been published following a series of public consultations that first began in November 2017. The rules which were released by the oversight regulator provide and define the relationship between the approved regulator and the regulatory body can be viewed here. Legal regulators now have one year to implement changes to bring themselves in line with the new rules.

Lawyer Disciplinary Processes: An Empirical Study of Solicitors’ Misconduct Cases in England and Wales in 2015

Abstract

The Legal Services Act 2007 effected major changes in the disciplinary system for solicitors in England Wales. Both the practice regulator, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and a disciplinary body, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, were reconstituted as independent bodies and given new powers. Our concern is the impact of the Act on the disciplinary system for solicitors. Examination of this issue involves consideration of changes to regulatory institutions and the mechanics of practice regulation. Drawing on Foucault’s notion of governmentality, empirical evidence drawn from disciplinary cases handled by the SDT and the SRA in 2015 is used to explore potentially different conceptions of discipline informing the work of the regulatory institutions. The conclusion considers the implications of our findings for the future of the professional disciplinary system.

Citation:

Boon, Andrew and Whyte, Avis, Lawyer Disciplinary Processes: An Empirical Study of Solicitors’ Misconduct Cases in England and Wales in 2015 (January 31, 2019). (2019) 39:3 Legal Studies. Available at SSRN.

Regulation of legal tech companies in Germany?

Politicians in Germany are seeking to bring in legislation which will bridge the gap between advice provided via legal tech companies and by lawyers.  German laws governing the profession currently only recognise legal advice provided by lawyers, with only a few exceptions.  The FDP political party is proposing the adoption of a tiered regulation model that would introduce Legal Tech companies to the liability model of lawyers and subject them to the judicial oversight of the German federal states.  In particular they are targeting automated platforms that guide people through a legal claim process, such as flight compensation sites.

BRAK – the German Federal Bar Association has been critical of the proposed law, however, as it maintains the position that only lawyers can provide regulated legal advice.  If this legislation is ultimately adopted it could lead to other European jurisdictions adopting a similar approach, and possibly even legislation at an EU-level.

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