This week, the SRA has announced as part of its “Looking to the Future” programme that it will widen the areas of law where firms will have to publish their prices, as well as what those fees cover, online. The areas affected are probate, motoring offences, immigration, debt recovery of amounts up to £100,000, and employment tribunals. Firms will have just 6 months to comply with the new requirement. The SRA stated, “Our ‘Better Information, more Choice’ reforms are designed to improve public access to legal services by making information on price, protections and services more easily available.”
The Council for Licensed Conveyancers has also recently announced that it will instruct its members to publish their fees on their websites, along with whether they have any referral arrangements, as part of a drive to improve transparency and choice for consumers.
Lawyers in Britain are hopeful that some level of cooperation between the United Kingdom and the European Union can help ensure a smooth transition following Brexit, particularly in relation to cross-border legal disputes, as well as in relation to civil and commercial law generally.
In a new paper, ‘Providing a cross-border civil judicial cooperation framework', which was published on 22 August, the government says that non-EU protections are already in place in many areas because of instruments such as the Hague Convention. However, it has also made clear its intention to foster "close and comprehensive cross-border civil judicial cooperation on a reciprocal basis" in other areas. This is undoubtedly necessary. The Hague Convention, for example, does provide certain protections in relation to the return of abducted children, but these are not as swift or effective as those that exist within EU agreements.
It is an unavoidable truth that despite many years of lobbying, political discourse and, of course, limited but important legislative action, women still do not enjoy equal opportunity in the workplace.
This is as true in the law as it is in any other profession, if not more so. Making a successful career as a lawyer or barrister is difficult enough, but combining it with life as a mother is especially problematic. In the vast majority of cases, women who combine a profession in the law with motherhood, must find a way to successfully marry the unpredictable nature of legal work and all its travel, urgencies, emergencies and considerable pressures with the inherently demanding responsibilities of looking after children.
This is just one, but nonetheless, important reason why the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service proposal to trial early and late opening courts should be resisted.
Returning to practice after a career break (yes, we're mainly talking maternity leave, here) can feel a very stressful and dispiriting experience. Not only are careers in law extremely competitive and overly-subscribed, many firms are firmly stuck in the rigid and patriarchal past and fail to offer the kind of flexible working environments that reflect the twenty-first century environment we live in – a world in which both men and women work and it is (or at least should be) perfectly possible to combine a fulfilling and financially rewarding career with a rich and involved family life.
There are plenty of indications to suggest that the disruption of the legal market is already taking effect. Online platforms, apps and in-house legal technologies are proliferating at an astonishing rate and, it seems, their presence is becoming tangible.
Take as an example of this tangibility the latest survey by international banking and financial services holding company Wells Fargo. It reports that larger flagship firms are experiencing stagnation in demand – something that leading analysts and philosophers such as Richard Susskind and Jeremy Waldron have predicted for some time. This is a perspective supported by the most recent Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor survey, which found that the litigation work of 151 large firms fell by 1.1% in the first half of 2016.