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Neither in nor out but shaking it all about

Posted by Nigel Wallis, partner at Legal Futures Associate O’Connors LLP [1]

Wallis: will red tape really be cut? [2]

Wallis: will red tape really be cut?

We’ve started serving English Brexit tea in our office. Some say it leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste while others find it quite refreshing. The suppliers told us they weren’t sure how it would turn out when they were blending it but apparently they’ve thrown out all the old varieties now and so, for good or bad, we’re stuck with it.

I feel like a mug right now, as it happens.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has clearly been watching all the excitement generated by the EU hokey-cokey and decided to launch its own referendum on proposed amendments to the Legal Services Act 2007. The consultation document, entitled Legal services: removing barriers to competition was published on 7 July and calls for responses by 3 August  (see the Legal Futures story here [3] and consultation paper here [4]). At least that gives everyone plenty of time to snatch a weekend break over the summer.

Flicking through the pre-amble, I half expected the MoJ referendum question to be: Should a solicitor remain a member of the legal profession or leave the legal profession? But it’s not that simple, I’m afraid.

The consultation document states that the proposed changes are broadly deregulatory. They aim to promote innovation and competition in the legal services market by reducing the regulatory burden on alternative business structures (ABSs), which MoJ research suggests have not attracted any greater regulatory risk than other legal services providers.

The four key proposals are:

The consultation document also includes an open invitation for respondents to suggest other changes to ABS regulation that will ensure ABSs are on a level playing field with other legal services providers.

Call me a cynic if you like, but the last time I saw red tape cut, my grandpa’s cavalry twills ended up round his ankles.

But at least we are being asked for our views and we should perhaps seize the democratic opportunity with both feet and shake them all about a bit.