How To Regulate the Legal Services Market? Starting From First Principles.

Christopher Decker & George Yarrow, Understanding the Economic Rationale for Legal Services Regulation, A Report for the Legal Services Board (Regulatory Policy Institute, 2010). Andrew Boon Dr. Christopher Decker and Professor George Yarrow are economists at the Regulatory Policy Institute, Oxford, who were commissioned to consider the "case for regulation" and the role of professions in the legal services market in the UK. Their report appears at a time when the professions in England and Wales are in the midst of a quiet revolution, precipitated by the Legal Services Act 2007 (LSA). The Act places a range of professional groups, from the mainstream solicitors and barristers to the more esoteric trade marks and patent agents, under the purview of the Legal Services Board (LSB), an "oversight regulator." This means that the professions retain a large measure of regulatory control, over ethics and education for example, but that they, and the LSB, must pursue statutory objectives. While much of the theory that Decker and Yarrow refer to is familiar to scholars of the legal professions, in Rick Abel's work for example, it is valuable for scholars of professions and legal services to see the argument through the prism of another discipline. The report is accessible to those without an economics background and might therefore provide a better foundation for dialogue between lawyers, economists and others than presently exists. This potential to stimulate debate is not purely parochial. Although the report uses examples of the practices of the English professions, the general approach is an "in principle" analysis of the rationale for regulation. Such a study might undermine the basis of legal professionalism, but it might also doubt the rationale for regulation per se, even public regulation by an oversight regulator. Decker and Yarrow do not disappoint in this regard, but also point to the limits of economic analysis in answering the questions they were posed. Continue reading "How To Regulate the Legal Services Market? Starting From First Principles."

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