Flood, John. (2008) Will There Be Fallout from Clementi? The Global Repercussions for the Legal Profession after the UK Legal Services Act 2007. Jean Monnet/Robert Schuman Paper Series. Vol. 8, No. 6 April 2008. [Working Paper]
The paper presents the historical arguments that led to the Clementi review of the legal profession and its culmination in the Legal Services Act 2007. There were two strands: one based on consumerism (too many complaints about lawyers’ services); the other based on a sustained investigation by the competition authorities into professions’ restrictive practices (anticompetitive unless proved in the public interest). These led to the abandonment of traditional forms of organization for lawyers’ practices (alternative business structures) and the imposition of a new regulatory structure for the profession (oversight and frontline regulators). In the second part of the paper I examine the trends in lawyers’ practices as currently pursued and as envisaged by the Act as aligned with our conceptions of professionalism. Using two hypotheticals: Tesco Law, and Goldman Sachs Skadden, I chart a move from professionalism to deskilling and proletarianization in the legal profession, not unlike that which existed in the 19th century. This dystopian view, which is essentially a top down conception of the legal industry, is contrasted with a more optimistic view based on the changes in the idealization of careers and life as represented by Generation Y. This is augmented by the changing nature of work, ie, post- Fordist, within organizations which in a number of ways escapes control and measurement because the distinctions between production and consumption, work and leisure allied with distributed network forms of production blur the boundaries that we have taken for granted. In contrast to the socio-economic approaches, I argue that we must examine conceptions of career, inclusion and exclusion, vocation, and community in order to understand how the professions will adapt to the postmodern condition.
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