Lord Chief Justice calls for single regulator

Lord Thomas

Lord Thomas; lawyers must be prepared for “radical changes”

In a major speech on the future of law, the Lord Chief Justice said last night that “there has to be a single regulator” for the legal professions.

Lord Thomas said he could not see any “practical” alternative, and he would be “very disappointed” if there was not a much simpler and cheaper system of regulation in 10 years’ time.

The LCJ also announced that, following a recommendation from the Legal Services Consumer Panel, he had set up a judicial working group to consider the wider use of McKenzie Friends.

Until now the leading advocate of a single legal regulator have been the Legal Services Board, whose chief executive Chris Kenny said last month that despite the government deciding no to go ahead with major reform at this time, the change would happen anyway over a period of 10 years.

Delivering the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates (SAHCA) Lord Slynn memorial lecture last night, Lord Thomas warned the profession that it needed to be prepared for “a number of radical changes”.

He made it clear that he believed that the Jackson reforms on their own would not be enough to cut the cost of litigation unless they were combined with “more rigorous control of procedure”.

In the future, Lord Thomas said the courts “should have the right to impose a truncated form of procedure” whether or not the parties involved agreed.

A combination of a much more unified form of procedure with a “more flexible approach to individual cases” would bring about a “very different form of litigation 10 years hence”.

ADR could no longer be looked on as “something that happens outside the courts” but judges would have to offer mediation as an option themselves. “We can’t only have one way of resolving disputes – namely a trial,” he said.

Lord Thomas said disclosure remained an “enormous problem”, particularly in fraud cases. It was “too early to tell” if the Jackson reforms would solve the problem, the LCJ said, and it would “take time for the judges to adjust to the new culture”.

Instead, he proposed treating disclosure in a “new way”, which would come as a “real challenge” to clients. “The panacea suggested by some of computerised control over disclosure is not an option, given its enormous cost and the ability of technology to produce even more documentation.”

Lord Thomas said he hoped the courts would move to a standard approach where parties either asked for specific documents or paid for what was produced in disclosure even if they won the case, and the documents were not used.

Referring to a speech he gave to the Society for Computers and the Law last month, the LCJ predicted that there would be “very few” interlocutory hearings in the future where parties would need to come to court, though this would remain the case for trials.

Lord Thomas said reductions in legal aid had a “serious effect” on the ability of people to use lawyers, but lawyers should not forget that “in the present day litigation seems almost out of reach for those on modest incomes and many SMEs”.

He said that in a capitalist economy, the cost of legal services must be driven by the market, and the Legal Services Act was meant to bring with it some “creative destruction”.

The LCJ said this had a “very regrettable effect” in the closure of many law firms, but closures were not what he expected to see in the future, rather the “legal services market operating much more effectively”.

Lord Thomas said he was not sure if the new market would drive down cost, but he hoped it would, as lawyers moved away from the “billable hour” towards fixed costs.

“I cannot see why a trial can’t be done at fixed cost, especially if you rein in disclosure”.

He called for third-party funding to be explored “more readily” than in the past and for legal expenses insurance to be a “proper means of funding litigation”, just as it was in Europe.

The LCJ added that although lawyers should be prepared for radical changes, this would come about through a “continual process” rather than a “big bang”.






    Readers Comments

  • Dawn Slow says:

    All I can say is – retirement cannot come soon enough for me!!
    I cannot help but feel despondent about the future of this profession and in particular personal injury. It will not be long before the man on the street simply cannot afford to bring a claim unless he has purchased legal expenses insurance and then he will have no choice of lawyer probably never seeing someone face to face, being advised by people who are not qualified in the lessor claims and things like brain injuries just being missed as a result. As for the more disadvantaged in our society they do not stand a cat in hell’s chance at securing any access to justice for themselves as the large panel firms will not take them on and the smaller firms will no longer exist.
    Sorry for all the doom and gloom but it is just how I and I suspect many others feel. We still have the potential reforms to factor in re whiplash yet so I just hope that they allow the dust to settle for some time on all the more recent reforms to see the true outcome of those reforms and in particular I hope they do another impact study to see how the reforms are affecting the more vulnerable in our society before they bring in another raft of reforms..

  • Rosemary Cantwell says:

    I believe that there is such division in the English legal system that if Scotland do indeed gain independence that the Scottish legal services may “pick up” important trade from its erstwhile English partners.

    I have asked specifically “who is a lawyer?” but been given little by way of explanation except the Legal Services Act 2007.

    And when I asked who is a “non-lawyer manager?” and how could a prominent lawyer be stated to be a “non-lawyer manager” of an ABS, there was no proper explanation.

    There is nothing in the Legal Services Act 2007 to state what a non-lawyer is as opposed to what a lawyer is.

    It is all very confusing indeed, I aver.

    Adjudication in a matter raised by CW Law Society Freedom …

    http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/…/adjudications/documents/cw-march-2014 · PDF file

    1. Who is a “lawyer”? Please provide the precise definition of a lawyer as per the ..

Leave a Comment

By clicking Submit you consent to Legal Futures storing your personal data and confirm you have read our Privacy Policy and section 5 of our Terms & Conditions which deals with user-generated content. All comments will be moderated before posting.

Required fields are marked *
Email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Keeping the conversation going beyond Pride Month

As I reflect on all the celebrations of Pride Month 2024, I ask myself why there remains hesitancy amongst LGBTQ+ staff members about when it comes to being open about their identity in the workplace.

Third-party managed accounts: Your key questions answered

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has given strong indications that it is headed towards greater restrictions on law firms when it comes to handling client money.

Understanding vicarious trauma in the legal workplace

Vicarious trauma can happen to anyone who works with clients who have experienced trauma such as domestic or other violence, child abuse, sexual assault, torture or being a refugee.

Loading animation