The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) published the final report of its market study into legal services in December 2016. At 285 pages (and a further 233 pages of appendices), it is not a light read! Nevertheless, it is worthwhile – though for those with less time or stamina, the executive summary on pages 4-19 will give a flavour of the review’s scope, conclusions and recommendations. It should also be emphasised that the scope of the study was intentionally limited to the experiences of individual consumers and small businesses, and that criminal legal services were excluded. The study is not therefore a review of the whole legal services sector.
The headline conclusion from the review is that the legal services sector is not working well for individual consumers and small businesses, largely because those consumers lack the experience and information they need to understand their needs, to make informed choices, and to engage confidently with providers of legal services. The CMA also concluded that these challenges are likely to increase over time and make the current regulatory framework unsustainable in the long run (especially since, in the CMA’s judgement, that framework also does not meet the principle of targeted regulation).
Much has been said and written about democracy and democratic will recently. In the past two years in the UK, we have had a General Election and an EU Referendum. Both were, in different ways and for different purposes, an expression of ‘the will of the people’. Or were they? Democracy is a strange thing; and a Parliamentary democracy is stranger still.
On 17 March 2016, at the invitation of the President of The Law Society of England & Wales, I delivered the keynote speech to the Society’s annual conference on legal aid. The report of the speech published by the Law Society Gazette (interestingly dated three days before it was actually delivered…) contains significant misrepresentations of both its content and tone.
Not for the first time, messages that I have taken time to consider and articulate carefully have been distorted by a journalist and then published as views that I did not in fact express or intend. I am reminded of the late, great Eric Morecambe describing how he played the piano: “all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order”. The Gazette report follows a similar pattern: some (though not all) of the right words, but out of context and not in the right order. Whether such distortions are deliberate or sloppy, I cannot tell; both undermine journalistic integrity.
For those who wish to read the real messages, in context, a full account is available here.