Let’s face it, everyone has complained about lawyers at some point (with lawyers often being the fiercest critics of other lawyers)! We’re reliably in the top 10 lists of most hated professions. Well, now the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a study into the legal services market in England and Wales, to see how efficiently lawyers actually are working for consumers and smaller businesses.
The study will review concerns about the standard and quality of service provided to clients and the general affordability of the sector. It could be the case that customers are paying sky-high fees for legalese or perhaps many just don’t know what to expect or what they actually need when they instruct a lawyer.
The CMA plans to examine 3 key issues:
- Whether customers can drive effective competition by making informed purchasing decisions of legal services;
- Whether customers are adequately protected from potential harm and can obtain satisfactory redress if legal services should go wrong; and
- How regulation and the regulatory framework of the sector impacts on competition for the supply of legal services.
The CMA will work together with Government departments, regulatory bodies and consumer groups through-out the study; as well as conducting a number of case studies into specific legal service areas to gain a clear view of the legal services market today.
Over the next 6 months the CMA will announce whether it intends to refer the market for a more in-depth investigation and a report is to be published within 12 months setting out the findings of the study and any recommended actions.
The CMA study, together with the Government’s announcements in 2015 to support alternative business models entering the legal sector, would appear to show a desire to update the regulatory elements of the sector. The CMA state themselves that they wish to see a fairer, more balanced regulatory regime for England and Wales that encourages competition.
It’s not fair!
It may seem surprising to some but the study has been welcomed by parts of the profession; with the Law Society commenting:
“We know that the market for legal services is not fair as solicitors, who are heavily regulated, are having to compete with unregulated providers. Regulation is there to protect the public and we believe that for the market to work effectively regulation has to be applied equally to all providers.”
Reputable firms want to ensure the profession stays, well… professional. The legal sector is a substantial part of the UK economy and fair competition across all service providers would inevitably help increase consumer confidence; and place clients in a position where they are able to make more informed and educated choices about which legal service provider they chose to use, and at what price.
Only time will tell how the CMA’s study will progress and what recommendations may come of it; 2016 could mark the beginning of a new era of regulation for the legal sector. Maybe we’ll even lose that top 10 most hated ranking.
To those wanting to have their say, the CMA are inviting comments on the study until 3 February 2016; contact details can be found via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/legal-services-study-launched-by-cma.
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