New regulatory models along the lines of those introduced by the Legal Services Act in England and Wales could help close the global ‘justice gap’, a report for a UN task force has recommended. According to the authors, from more than a dozen countries, 'The United Kingdom offers an example of a country where the legal services sector has been opened up with a new regulatory model that fosters innovation and accessibility.'

The Innovating Justice report adds that fostering 'responsible competition' helps to drive costs down. 'It is an inspirational model that deserves to be followed and developed further.'

The report is the work of the innovation working group of the Task Force on Justice, one of a clutch of bodies set up to implement the UN's '2030 Agenda targets for peaceful, just and inclusive societies'. It is chaired by government ministers from Argentina, the Netherlands and Sierra Leone with members including Alejandro Alvarez, director of the UN secretary general's rule of law group and Owen Pell, New York partner at international firm White & Case. 

According to the task force 1.5 billion people globally have unmet legal needs, a 'justice gap' that is set to widen. 'But in all countries, more vulnerable members of a society find it harder to access justice and suffer more severe impacts from injustice. They are also most likely to experience multiple justice problems and to have other related social needs.' The report proposes that this need is best met from outside the formal justice sector. 

'Currently, the people who participate in designing and running justice systems are almost exclusively legal practitioners/lawyers,' the report claims. 'The exclusivity of lawyers is unparalleled and contributes to an inward looking sector that does not innovate. To make justice systems more fit for purpose and to ensure they meet justice needs in line with the people and relations paradigm that we advocate, others - psychologists, social scientists, data analysts, designers, neurologists, social workers, public and business administrators, and critically users - must be let in.'

Commending the England and Wales model, the report says: 'By shifting from a focus on regulating people - the lawyers who historically have provided legal services - to regulating services -- which could be provided by a host of innovative people and businesses, the UK (sic) regulatory approach has the flexibility to accommodate new models. Moreover, it fosters responsible competition to help drive costs down and quality and accessibility up.'

The report Innovating justice: needed & possible was published this week at an event organised by The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law