The UK Law Society has had a long history. It is now at a new low.
Having been cavalier about its “regulatory” function, it was forced to cede that responsibility to the Legal Services Board. The Board is one of those independent bodies to which there is always appended the word “independent” when it is mentioned by its spokespersons and mentors.
Verbal tics like that are the speech equivalent of body language signals.
Now the Law Society’s real owners are going to abandon it. I mean the big City firms. They do not want to be subject to a messy regime of regulation; they do not even want to be in charge of it.
They want their own system of regulation (which is not to say they never had that before).
In the UK the possibility of partnerships between solicitors and barristers is looming. The UK Bar is what is known as a sophisticated user of legal services. It knows full well the real system by which the professions are operated; it wants no “regulation” from the Law Society or its members, over members of the Bar.
Now the Law Society has “commissioned” a review of things by Lord Hunt of Wirral. He happens to be a solicitor and a former member of the Cabinets of Mrs. Thatcher and John Major.
He has, it seems, announced his brief thus:
Should the system of regulation be the same for a High Street solicitor as for a medium-size law firm? Should it be the same for a one-person practice as for a global law firm?”
Peculiarly, for a solicitor, he does not seem to have noticed the question has been asked and answered:
Why should a partner in a global law firm who throws ashtrays at his staff not be brought to book like anyone else?
Why should he not be brought to account if he steals the money of a client?
What Lord Hunt probably means is that the Legal Services Board has not got the skill, experience or facilities to delve into the accounts of a big firm.
He probably already knows that, before all those features, there must come the will to act. That will has always been absent.