Sunday, September 22, 2013

Malodorous Regulation and Why It Should Be Reformed....

(Thanks to Ben Whishaw in Perfume)

I was asked to provide a comment on Dave Edmonds call for a single regulator for legal services by the Solicitors Journal. This is what I said (only you get an extra video in this version):

During a recent TEDx talk in Sydney a UNSW law lecturer friend of mine, Justine Rogers, said that one should introduce concepts that reminded the audience of something elusive, like a perfume, such as “Complexity”.

If ever there was a pervasive odour around the regulation of legal services in Britain it is complexity. On the basis to get where we want to go, we wouldn’t start from here—the market for legal services is a mess.

The Ministry of Justice regulation review is needed. Why? Because the Legal Services Act 2007 is the bastard child arising out of the turf wars between the warring factions of the legal profession. And six years later these wars are still being fought, by profession and regulator.

We have introduced a system of such startling complexity that it is a lawyers’ delight. Even though it is outcomes focused and principles based, little agreement exists as to how it should be implemented. At a conference I argued that the UK system would lead the world. Another speaker expressed incredulity at the labyrinthine procedures that any would be-ABS had to go through to get a licence. In Australia, he said, incorporated legal practices were granted licences quickly. The key vetting was done afterwards to ensure it followed proper practices. To become an ABS in the UK is difficult, complex, expensive and could take as long as a trip to Mars. This is not what the “new” regulatory system was set up to do.

One of the drives of the Legal Services Board is to increase competition in the market and also to simplify the provision of services. Within the constraints of the LSA there is only so much the LSB can do. But trying to herd a bevy of regulators towards a new pasture is hard.

Time then to simplify and remove complexity. Yes, we should move to a single regulator for legal services. And furthermore we should move towards a single legal services supplier. Let’s scrap solicitors, barristers and the other categories and go for a single supplier with accreditation and specialisation. Perhaps consumers will begin to understand the market.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Memories of when I started training at London Fields Fitness with Katy...

Katy MacKay (@Katytrainer) was my trainer for 18 months at London Fields Fitness. Sadly, our crazy immigration laws have meant she's had to return to Australia. I, and a large number of others, really miss her. 

She introduced me, with complete shock and awe, to Kettle Bells, which one swings maniacally while madly grimacing. Whether the Kettle Bell swings me or I it, I leave to sundry Zen masters. It is, however, a magical instrument. So much so, I now own seven of them!

Katy made this little video out of clips she would film to show us what we were doing...or not.

Long may you swing your Kettle Bell, Katy. 


Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Missing Middle in Legal Education

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Law School has just started a new blog called "lawschoolvibe". For those that have sat through a course of mine on the legal profession will immediately recognize that as the key moment in modern jurisprudence when Dennis Denuto, in The Castle, is called on by the judge to specify which part of the Australian constitution he is referring to:

They asked me to write a piece for them, which I've done about one of the failings of legal education generally and the Legal Education and Training Review/Report in particular.

June 2013 marked the publication of the Legal Education and Training Review report(LETR) in the UK. Two years of research commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Bar Standards Board, and ILEX Professional Standards. Three hundred and fifty pages later, we are not much further forward.
There is a delicate balance in reviewing legal education between the local and the global; between the theoretical and the practical; and between the future and the present. LETR gamely steers its way around these obstacles without recommending too much change to the present system or favouring one over the other. It’s missed some opportunities.
I will focus on one here—the balance between the future and the present. Richard Susskind was a consultant to LETR and wrote an interesting paper about the technological changes reverberating through the legal services market. (Please note the language: legal services market and providers, lawyers are only one segment of a fragmented market these days.) Occasionally Susskind refers to legal education. Not much of what he said has infused the LETR report, which is a shame.
The rest of the post is here at lawschoolvibe...


Thursday, September 05, 2013

Different Types of Revolutionary Legal Organizations....

(thanks to Chicago Socialists)

In the wake of the Legal Services Act 2007 we have been focused on the new Alternative Business Structures almost to the exclusion of other new legal organizations. This came to mind when reading The Lawyer's feature on the legal landscape in 2018.

At the end of its article there are a couple of paragraphs on litigation boutiques and their growing success. The one which struck me in particular is Hage Aaronson, litigation specialists. (Their website must be the most understated ever--it has only one page.

The reason I find it interesting is that the company, which it is, was formed by two barristers who are quitting their chambers to do this. Another QC is also joining the firm. Other members of the firm/company are lawyers from Dorsey & Witney (their entire tax team), Baker Botts, and Debevoise & Plimpton. Tax litigation is one of its main areas of expertise, along with regulatory work, arbitration and multi-jurisdictional commercial claims.

The firm's self-professed claim is to be an "international litigation management" firm. By blending solicitors and barristers it situates itself as a conduit between the Magic Circle law firms and the commercial Bar. This is of course a form of de facto fusion between solicitors and barristers. Or perhaps it shows us the futility of artificial distinctions between occupational groups that do very much the same thing with different specialisms.

What I haven't seen discussed in regard to Hage Aaronson is how it will be charging its clients. Given their nature it might not be a problem. However, part of the success of other litigation boutiques like Quinn Emmanuel has been their entrepreneurial approach to the charging and funding of litigation. There must be some price competition among litigation boutiques. They all claim to have the best lawyers.

In a recent article, Ray Campbell, discusses the impact of disruptive innovation on legal services. He shows how regulatory barriers hinder innovation. Consumer needs are ranked below the needs of the suppliers as happens with the US legal profession. (Despite that, litigation boutiques thrive in the US.) These hindrances are now being dismantled in the UK and we will see more innovations as consumers/clients become more persuasive.


Monday, September 02, 2013

2018: New roles to revolutionize training...

(Thanks to museum 2.0)

According to Nina Simon, who created the image above, revolution is not ever-increasing circles but a dramatic shift in the centre of the circle. So, in the spirit of revolution I have participated in The Lawyer's series on 2018: A Window into the Future

I was interviewed for the article, 2018: New Roles to Revolutionize Training. The article starts

Prediction: The number of training contracts will fall but new routes into the profession will multiply.
When it comes to legal education crystal ball-gazing should be easy, shouldn’t it? After all, the report intended to shape thinking about the junior end of the profession for years to come has just been published.
So has the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) cleared the waters? Not really. Its recommendations are not radical and the reaction to it has been one of mild disappointment, the profession failing even to summon up enough energy to stick the boot in....
I'm arguing that entry pathways will become more pluralistic to reflect the fragmentation of the legal profession and the legal services market.