Most people understand that regulations have a direct bearing on their access to things such as clean air and water and safe working environments. However, in the United States, few people make the connection between how legal services are regulated and how difficult it is for them to access legal services. Indeed, on the question of affordable and accessible civil justice, the World Justice Project ranks the US 94th out of 113 countries, behind Albania, Belarus, Myanmar, and Russia.
For decades academics and others have debated whether the legal profession is self-regulated and, if it is, whether it should be. But is it the right debate? Self-regulation—or not—does not obviate the need for effective regulation.
Independent, accountable, and transparent regulatory bodies, effective oversight of those bodies, the genuine engagement of citizens in the regulatory process, evidence-based research to fully assess the impact of regulation, and an approach to regulation that is proportionate and targeted to actual risks are essential for effective regulation. Through the lens of the adoption of alternative structures, this book explains how England, Wales, and Australia have, by embracing these essential elements, successfully modernized their regulatory environments for legal services, and how Canada has taken firm steps down its own path to the same. In contrast, by rejecting these elements, the United States remains paralyzed in an unproductive regulatory environment for legal services.
This book provides a blueprint for how the US can take inspiration from its common law sisters to breathe new life into its regulatory environment for legal services. Ultimately, modernization will require more—and better—regulation that is financed publicly through equitable, progressive revenue sources.