As we move closer to October, I have an increasing sense that the reality of change is hitting home. Nevertheless, there are still some nay-sayers and delaying tactics in evidence. Here are the common objections, along with my response.
“I didn’t become a lawyer to be a businessperson”
Maybe you didn’t, BUT that’s what it takes in the 21st century, so if you don’t want to do it, don’t: shut up shop.
“I can’t make enough money from what I’m doing”
You’re right, and I sympathise, BUT to make more you need to change what you’re doing or how you’re doing it. You won’t make enough from doing the same things in the same old way.
“The Law Society should do more to represent us and protect us”
To whom and from whom? You have a point about your representative body, BUT remember that there are members who welcome the changes and the opportunities right across the spectrum of size, type of practice and geography, and there are many clients who are desperate for more relevant, accessible, user-friendly and cost-effective legal services. There are a lot of disparate and conflicting views to represent!
“The SRA should protect us from competition”
Wrong: that’s not part of a regulator’s job. BUT what the regulator should do is create a regulatory playing field that’s level (in the sense that all those who fall within the regulated community should be subject to the same ‘rules of the game’).
“It’s not fair, though, because we can’t compete on equal terms”
You’re probably right. The regulatory playing field might be level, but the competitive one isn’t if others have more reach, more resources, better technology, closer contact with consumers, and so on. BUT that’s what competition is about – winners and losers. Find your competitive advantage by offering something that’s more meaningful and valuable to your clients, and you won’t lose them to anyone else. That’s fair, isn’t it?
“We’re too small to invest in technology and marketing”
You might be right, BUT you do have the opportunity to combine with others to offer a broader or deeper range of services and provide a platform to investment and development. Do it.
“We act for vulnerable clients, and they won’t be able to afford access to justice if we pull out”
This might be true, BUT it’s a political issue, not a regulatory one. The advent of ABSs is not inherently likely to reduce access to justice or quality (and might improve both); and the regulatory objectives in the Legal Services Act require us all to work to improve access to justice.
“ABSs don’t offer anything to me; and I don’t want to grow, or be managed by someone else, or have external funding”
It’s your right to make that choice, BUT what you want and what you need aren’t necessarily the same thing. The days of being the only arbiter of how you’re in business are now behind us.