I have written about this previously (see Passles passim), but I can't help but observe yet again that it is an interesting world in which struck off solicitors are citing the LSB and the Law Society as supporters of the principle of unregulated law firms.
This may be missing the point of regulation just a little. Long before the law bit directly on those who wished to adopt the title of, say, doctor of medicine, without having undergone the requisite training or having acquired the necessary skills, professions of various stamps were voluntarily forming associations or guilds with a view to identifying themselves to the paying public (and excluding those who were not members from the market). They were therefore submitting voluntarily to a form of regulation by their peers. The reasons for so doing were undoubtedly economic but also motivated by the public interest and the genuine desire to prevent the harm that might be caused by the unqualified or unregulated.
Much has of course changed since the regulated professions as we know then in the UK sprang into being in the mid-19th Century. In particular, there is growing enthusiasm for the idea that law no longer needs (qualified and regulated) lawyers for two principal reasons: firstly they cost too much; and secondly, they will be replaced or supplanted by technology.
I have no axe to grind with that view, even if I think that the need for skilled interlocutors between the technology of New Law and the public will keep good old-fashioned legal professionals in business much longer than Richard and Daniel Susskind suggest in their recent (and excellent) book, The Future of the Professions.
However, to return to the apparent unregulated future of law, it was always the case that you didn't need to be a solicitor or barrister to work in the law or offer advice, and further, that not all the things solicitors or barristers did were regulated because the law said so, but because solicitors and barristers chose to accept those restrictions: for instance the now discarded Separate Business Rule for solicitors.
The reason for this was the brand - if you chose to lend money to a solicitor for litigation funding say, you could be assured that he would use it for that purpose and not to pay off other loans in order to prop up his failing business. The choice of solicitors to submit voluntarily to the shackles of regulation, even in areas where this was not strictly required, was one of the measures that helped promote the brand of all solicitors. It helped to promote the view that all solicitors were "good" compared to their perhaps "diabolical" unqualified competitors.
We are now perhaps beyond such a naïve conception of the need for regulation. The consumer of the future needing debt advice or help with their tribunal claim will be assisted by the scrupulously impartial search engines and trust rating websites. I am sure they will be able to find good value help from firms unencumbered with the brand of solicitor almost as easily as one can find a reliable builder.
“Law is 90% administration and only 10% law,” Mr Barnett said. “Anyone can call themselves a lawyer, just as anyone can call themselves an accountant.” ...Mr Barnett quoted from a report by the Law Society, published last week, on the future of legal services, which said: “Solicitors themselves may choose to shed the shackles of regulation and utilise their legal knowledge to work in or as unregulated providers.” The former Law Society council member said that, as with the rest of the legal profession, there were some good unregulated firms and some which were “diabolical”. He went on: “If I wanted to go out and advise people in trouble, who better than me? Who better to empathise with them, than me? I’m not doing it, but I could.”