Overhaul of the British Legal System Can Sharpen Competition
17 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2008
Date Written: July 2007
The British legal system is on the verge of sweeping, historic changes. Parliament is expected to act soon on a reform bill, which will transform the legal profession, the legal aid system, and the organizational and financial structure of law firms in England and Wales. Because London is the home of many of the world's largest global law firms, these changes can have widespread effects on the nature of competition, not only in the United Kingdom, but in the European Union and around the world. This paper traces the development of the legislation, describes its contents, and focuses on the possibility of outside ownership of law firms by non-lawyers, and corporations traded publicly on stock exchanges. It reviews the brief experience of outside ownership of law firms in Australia and implications for lawyers and law firms in the United States. The paper observes that, because the potential scope and depth of the regulatory changes and the competitive effects are too important to ignore, developments need to be monitored and studied carefully. The paper concludes that, although the time is not ripe for such regulatory changes in the United States, support can develop as business opportunities materialize. The future is certain to bring further debates and, perhaps, action to allow more flexible business organizations and new ways to dispense legal services to businesses and the general public.
Keywords: competition, business organization, law firms, accounting firms, multidisciplinary practice, globalization, regulation, professional services
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