The recently implemented Legal Services Act 2007 branded “Tesco law”, aimed at liberalising legal services has received a mixed response within the legal profession. While some applaud the move to “open the door to the new legal market”, conservative types within the legal profession oppose the changes in a bid to preserve this traditional vocation and prevent law from being turned into a “high street commodity”.
The main concern among critics is that the introduction of Alternative Business Structures (ABS) which allow non-lawyers to invest in law firms, will present significant problems, resulting in independent legal advice being put at risk as businesses focus on maximising their profit.
Resistance to the changes brought about by the Legal Services Act 2007, stems from the fact that a considerable number of people in the legal sector – High street firms in particular – are unwilling to innovate and position themselves strategically in the changing legal landscape.
This reluctance to innovate could drive some firms out of business as the availability of certain services such as conveyancing, probate become readily available in the new firms run by non-lawyers that will begin to mushroom as a result of the 2007 Act. There is no doubt that complex areas of law will continue to be handled by firms that have built a reputation in certain specialisms.
Legal practitioners in favour of the liberalisation of legal services, are of the view that people will be able to access legal services in new ways and the public will have a greater choice of legal service providers. There is a strong possibility that the implementation of this Act at a time when legal Aid spending is being cut could be a political ploy to appease the public.