chapter  10
26 Pages

The Legal Professions

J Analyse the statistics available on the legal professions to examine the distribution of lawyers in terms of demographics, geography, types of work and specialisms

J Distinguish the representative functions of the Law Society and the Bar Council from the regulatory and disciplinary roles of the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board respectively

J Advise a client on how to make a complaint about the provision of legal services J Explain what the letters QC stand for J Explain the effects of the Legal Services Act 2007 on the work, regulation and

organisation of the legal professions

J Identify what the future might hold for the legal professions

People working in legal services Legal work involves a great many different personnel, who perform widely varying roles. Thus in the course of your involvement with the law you may encounter ‘paralegal’ workers, qualified legal executives, licensed conveyancers, notaries and different types of legal clerks. There are also many non-lawyers who specialise in the law, such as accountants who work in tax and revenue law. However, the terms ‘lawyer’ and ‘legal profession’ are generally understood to describe those who belong to a professional regulatory body, as listed in Figure 10.1. When the terms ‘lawyer’ or ‘legal profession’ are used, however, they are usually describing solicitors or barristers. Solicitors traditionally provide a wide range of legal services as the ‘front-line’ lawyers. They provide general legal advice, prepare cases for court and can also conduct litigation. Barristers are specialist legal advisers and on the whole conduct litigation (advocacy) in the courts. However, as you will

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see, this overview is simplistic and the changes made to the legal profession since the mid-1980s have blurred the distinction between solicitors and barristers (and perhaps between those and legal executives and paralegals too). For example, 30 years ago, the demarcation between the role of the barrister and that of the solicitor was clear; solicitors rarely undertook advocacy work outside the Magistrates’ and County Courts; the code of professional conduct for solicitors prohibited them from advertising, and solicitors enjoyed a monopoly in conveyancing (that is, the legal work associated with the buying and selling of property). All this has changed in the intervening period of time, and as you read this chapter you will discover how many of these aspects of the professions have altered and are continuing to change. Your attention is drawn to the Legal Services Act 2007 which permits the establishment of alternative business structures (or ABSs). This means that, for the first time, non-lawyers are able to manage and/or own a business that offers legal services to the public. From a commercial perspective, this is very significant across the legal services sector.