Law Society urges de-regulation caution
The Law Society has warned that a desire for greater competition and deregulation in the legal services sector must not be allowed to undermine consumer protection.
Commenting in response to a report by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the Society has expressed surprise that some of the CMA’s recommendations prioritise deregulation over consumer protection.
Commenting on the report, Law Society president Robert Bourns said:
“If solicitors were to offer legal services from unregulated companies, as suggested by the CMA, then their clients would no longer enjoy a raft of protections – from confidentiality to compensation – offered by every solicitor in a solicitor firm. These deregulatory changes would undermine consumer protections and erode trust in the legal system.”
When surveyed by the Law Society in 2016, 77 per cent of consumers said the businesses in which solicitors work should be regulated, with 97 per cent saying that advice from a solicitor should be confidential and not disclosable to third parties.
Bourns went on to say:
“The Law Society has a responsibility to make sure that the legal sector works in the best interests of each one of us – regardless of wealth, ethnicity or gender. Our concerns are wider than the CMA’s,
“Regulation can be a blunt instrument. Where possible – particularly in a market like legal services with many different types of providers, clients and services – solutions driven by consumer demand are more flexible and less costly than regulation.
“Public education in identifying legal problems, which the Law Society promotes, also plays a significant role in empowering people to make the right choices about when and how to seek legal advice.”
The LexisNexis Bellwether report (2016) found that clients’ two highest priorities are that their lawyer has a clear understanding of their needs and that they are efficient. Research from YouGov found that reputation is the most important factor in choosing a legal services provider.