Legal services reform in Scotland – regulation, international competitiveness and seizing opportunities for innovation

Edinburgh,  Wednesday, 25th March 2020

This conference will discuss the next steps for legal services in Scotland.

Delegates will examine:

  • Major proposals for regulatory reform;
  • The sector’s international competitiveness going forward; and
  • The impact of innovation in legal technology.

The conference includes a ministerial contribution – and will be an opportunity to discuss the issues as The Scottish Government consults on the future of legal services regulation following its response to the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation in Scotland, also known as the Roberton Review.

We also expect discussion on the CMA research which is currently being undertaken, and anticipated to be published soon, to support The Scottish Government in its final response to the review.

With the review recommending the creation of a single independent regulator for all providers of legal services, accountable to The Scottish Parliament, stakeholders and policymakers will assess the next steps for government and what any decision will mean for the sector, its customers and partners.

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Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security publishes analysis of changes in lawyer regulation

Following the March 2015 report submitted by the Advokatlovutvalget (the Lawyer Commission), which suggested changes to the regulation of lawyers in Norway (Report in Norwegian available here), the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security has decided to further evaluate the recommendations.

The Ministry has commissioned research consultancy Copenhagen Economics to provide further analysis on two of the proposed changes: 1) the regulation of the right to provide legal services, and 2) the ownership regulation for law firms.

The report has suggested that the current competitive climate for legal services in Norway is relatively good, with no signs of a decline in competition and good competition between smaller firms and larger firms, especially for less complex cases. The report also suggested that increased liberalisation of legal activities, particularly non-court based activities would prevent a monopoly forming around legal services, and would allow new entrants to enter the market. The report also recommended that ownership regulations should not be tightened. Currently, anyone in Norway can hold a stake in a law firm, provided they spend a “significant part” of their professional activity in the firm’s service. The Lawyer Commission had proposed only allowing lawyer ownership of firms. The report has suggested that this is not appropriate as it stifles innovation and capital investment, and therefore competition.

Copenhagen Economics English language summary of the report is available here.

The full report in Norwegian is available here.

Law Society of Saskatchewan amends Legal Profession Act to expand access to legal services

The Law Society of Saskatchewan has announced amendments to the Legal Profession Act, 1990, effective from 1 January 2020. The Law Society is an independent regulator with the core mandate of the protection of public interest.

In 2017 the Law Society and the Ministry of Justice established the Legal Services Task Team, comprised of lawyers, member of the public and other non-lawyers working in legal services, as part of the strategic plan to increase access to legal services. The task team was asked to explore the possibility of non-lawyers being allowed to provide low-risk legal services.

The team’s recommendations included clarifying the definition of the practice of law, and identifying what constituted unauthorised practice of law; expanding the list of exemptions to the unauthorised practice provisions; and creating limited licenses that may be granted by the Law Society on a case-by-case basis.

Amendments to the Act which have been introduced include:  a clearer definition of the practice of law and allowing limited licensing, the first example of this approach in Canada. The Law Society of Saskatchewan Rules were also amended to include an expanded list of exemptions to unauthorised practice. The Law Society is attempting to identify further groups and individuals providing limited legal services, who are not lawyers, that may not fall neatly within the new list of exemptions.

The Society is hoping to encourage low-risk providers to self identify to be considered for exemptions, especially as the Society has historically not pursued low-risk providers. The Society feels that self-identification will allow for more effective management and regulation of such providers.

Further information about the reforms is available here.

ABA approves resolution to expand access to justice

On February 17th, during its annual midyear meeting, the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates approved resolution 115, encouraging State Bars to consider innovative approaches to expanding access to justice, particularly focused around improving the affordability and quality of civil legal services.

The resolution initially proposed by the ABA Center for Innovation and supported by several standing committees of the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility, calls on state regulators and Bars to consider regulatory innovations that would improve accessibility, affordability and quality of civil legal services. The resolution initially faced strong opposition from several Bar Associations. However, the resolution received overwhelming support from 596 member house following the addition of a provision stating: “Nothing in this resolution should be construed as recommending any changes to any of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, including Rule 5.4, as they relate to non-lawyer ownership of law firms, the unauthorized practice of law or any other subject.” Rule 5.4 limits sharing of legal fees with non-lawyers as well as bars non-lawyer equity in law firms.

Further details about the meeting and the resolution are available here.

The proposed resolution and report are available here, with the final resolution available here.

The future of legal services in England and Wales – regulation, consumer protection and responding to innovation

Morning, Tuesday, 25th February 2020

Cavendish Conference Auditorium 22 Duchess Mews, Marylebone, London, W1G

THIS EVENT IS CPD CERTIFIED

This conference focuses on the future regulation of legal services in England and Wales.

It will be an opportunity to discuss the recently published interim report of the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation and look ahead to the final report with the seminar coming ahead of its expected publication.

Areas for discussion include:

  • The future regulatory framework and role of individual regulators;
  • Protecting consumers and improving their experience and engagement with legal services;
  • Challenges for the sector in adopting legal technology, and issues that its use raises for regulation; and
  • The entry into the legal market of professional services firms, competition, and the future of reserved activities.

The Review’s lead, Professor Stephen Mayson, is a keynote speaker at the seminar, along with Chris Jenkins, Economics Director, Competition and Markets Authority.  The chairs are the former Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon the Lord Falconer of Thoroton and Lord Gold.

SRA launches consultation on compensation fund changes

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has launched a consultation on “reforms to the compensation fund arrangements”. The consultation builds on the conclusions of the past consultation on compensation, covered here in 2018. Changes have been made based on the feedback given, including introducing a maximum cap on related claims and dropping proposals for the introduction of a hardship test.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive said: “We want to strike the right balance between protecting clients’ money and making sure that the Fund remains sustainable for the future. We think the proposals we are consulting on find that balance, but we want to hear the views of all those involved.”

Proposals include:

  • Focusing eligibility criteria on people that need most protection and removing the current hardship tests
  • Only allowing applications from people that have been provided or are a recipient of a legal service from the solicitor involved
  • Reducing the single claim limit to £500,000, and being clearer about how to apply this limit
  • Capping the total amount payable for a group of related claims
  • No longer allowing claims where an insurance policy has been voided or has already paid out money

The full details of the SRA’s conclusions from the past consultation are available here.

Details of the current consultation, including submission instructions, the proposed rules and further evidence are available here.

Consultation response submission deadline: 21 April 2020. 

Event: BSB- The Future of Legal Services – Regulation of the Market, Consumer Protection and Technological Innovation

25th February 2020

Bar Standards Board (BSB) Director of Strategy and Policy Ewen MacLeod will be hosting a panel to discuss ‘Regulation in the legal services market – structures, roles and independence’. The seminar will focus on the upcoming publication of Stephen Mayson’s Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation.

Speakers will look at the conclusions of the review, and the ongoing function of legal regulators, as well as looking at the potential future impact of the report.

Event Website

Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey reveals new legal regulation strategy

Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey has unveiled Bill 161, which is designed to both implement Legal Aid Services Act, as well as amending the Law Society Act. The act is designed to ease the regulatory burden, as well as creating some accountability from lawyers. Some of the proposed changes include:

  • raising maximum fines for lawyers to $100,000 from $10,000
  • adding to the circumstances in which a lawyer or paralegal’s license can be revoked
  • moving towards entity-based regulation by defining a “firm”

See the full proposals on the Legislative Assembly of Ontario site (PDF).

ABA’s Center for Innovation calls for innovation in lawyer regulation

A report released by the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Center for Innovation has called for U.S. jurisdictions to consider new approaches to regulation to increase access to justice. The recommendations are under review by the ABA House of delegates, where if approved they will be passed as a resolution, supporting the revision of existing structures.

The report supports reform in three areas.

  • new categories of legal services providers
  • reexamining Rule 5.4 (on fee sharing)
  • exploring new approaches to policies on the unauthorized practice of law

The ABA House of Delegates will vote on the resolution at the organization’s midyear meeting in February.

The full report and resolution are available here.

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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