Market needs more lawyers, says super-regulator

Topics: Personal and professional development,Regulation and compliance

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The Legal Services Board has said there is no evidence of an oversupply of lawyers in the market and proposed introducing ‘fewer restrictions to the way that people are able to qualify’.

In a consultation published today on ‘proposed statutory guidance’ for implementing the recommendations of the Legal Education and Training Review the super-regulator says that despite concern at the number of individuals who fail to obtain pupillage or training contracts, ‘it is very difficult to accept the argument that there are too many lawyers’.

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In evidence, it cites ‘the levels of unmet need identified in research looking at both individual and small-business consumers’.

It suggests that ‘it is perhaps more likely that the market cannot sustain the number of lawyers at the current cost’.

Saying that restricting numbers through regulation would not promote competition, the LSB proposes ‘fewer restrictions to the way that people are able to qualify and the range of options open to individuals wishing to pursue a career in the legal services market’. 

David Edmonds, chairman of the LSB, said the draft guidance was built on the view that a liberalised legal services market ‘can only function effectively for consumers if there is a significantly more flexible labour market’. 

He said the profession needs ‘a blueprint for action to give society the legal workforce it needs for the future’. 

The consultation document also says the board disagrees with the Legal Education and Training Review’s recommendations to introduce a licensing regime for paralegals. The vast majority of paralegals are employed in regulated entities and are supervised by authorised persons, it says.

Edmonds noted there was a risk that regulators would not share the same interpretation of the LETR’s report. ‘There is perhaps an even bigger risk that debate about the meaning of the report will slow down momentum.’

John Wotton, chair of the Law Society’s education and training board, described the LSB’s proposal as ‘inappropriate and misguided’. He said the proposed statutory guidance ‘trespasses upon the proper role of the approved regulators and this consultation represents an unwelcome distraction from the work that the approved regulators need to get on with.

‘The LSB and its chairman may be disappointed with the contents of the [LETR] report, but we strongly urge the SRA and other ARs not to dance to the LSB’s tune in discharging their responsibilities in this area, which is so vital to the future health of the legal sector.’

The LSB’s consultation closes on 11 December.

Readers' comments (24)

  • How is it the board thinks we need more lawyers but the state wants fewer solicitors and is making sure fewer is what we have?
    Oh yes, I get it now. More Tom Dick and Harry lawyers not those nasty greedy defenders of the individual against the state and big business. Just those who advise on debt and benefits are welcome. The big boys who deal with "corporate law" and who dine at the top table can look after themselves

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  • Usually think all that LSB does is well researched - but this one really baffles me. Sorry, Chris, but this idea of under-supply just doesn't ring true.

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  • At first, I thought "what the hell". On second reading though, I see their point. If it were oversupply of solicitors/overpaid lawyers, then youd be forgiven for wondering what planet they're on. But there's still a need for cheap labour, even in this market. Hence why they want a more flexible labour market. All part of commoditisation.

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  • Second time around on reading this I think I get it, basically LSB says there is room for more para-legals, 21-year olds willing to work for £17,000 a year to process 'legal' documents etc in large open plan factories in Slough and Liverpool.
    At the end of the day commoditisation seems inevitable, but service will be weak, the work product will be the bare minimum and so tick box that it is dangerous, and it will have nothing to do with 'the law', 'advice', or 'clients'.
    I started off really embracing the whole commoditised thing, but now it's looking increasingly like a bad idea.

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  • Commoditisation is the object of a discredited Lord Chancellor, and the sadly defeatist posture of our professional body which has lost its passion for the law and justice.

    Nothing in this world is inevitable except death and IHT

    Have our brothers in arms in the Bar become the sole guardians of professionalism and ethics in the law?

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  • I have never entered a comment before nor thought I ever would but I cannot stand by a read the rubbish from the LSB without speaking out. Do they actually know what they are saying 'blueprint for action to provide society with the legal workforce it needs for the future' ? Doesn't it actually mean that someone has decided what the future will be and this is how they are going to make it happen without actually considering whether that is future anybody really wants in the first place?

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  • More lawyers? What utter garbage. If more lawyers are needed, why are so many would-be lawyers failing to get training contracts?

    When an organisation puts out rubbish like this, you have to question whether it is safe to rely on any of its views on any topic.

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  • If the market needs more lawyers, why are there so many LPC graduates (who have paid out thousands in study fees) so desperately searching for training contracts?

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  • It would appear that regardless of the evidence our government and its policy enforcers do what they like.

    The aim ? Zero hours ''solicitors''. The product questionable.

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  • The solicitor 'profession' is simply no longer a profession at all. It is not even a very god business to be in.

    I really cannot understand why anyone in their right mind want to qualify as a solicitor these days - the cost, the time, the qualifications needed - and most of all the lack of a good safe job even when you've jumped through all the hoops!! Makes no sense to me at all.

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