Independent review of legal market need, says lord chief justice

23 February, 2015

Lord Chief Justice Thomas has called for an independent review of the legal market to investigate whether the Legal Services Act 2007 is working and why fees have remained high despite greater competition.

Speaking during the presentation of his 2014 annual report to the justice select committee, Lord Thomas said he had significant concern that the “massive expansion” in the number of lawyers had not led to prices coming down. He said that this was a “paradox” that continued to go against traditional economic models and was an area of the profession that had been largely ignored.

Speaking to MPs, he highlighted a number of issues in the legal market that he felt needed addressing. He questioned whether the new market was operating correctly and asked if the reforms put forward in the Legal Services Act has made a difference?” He also asked whether fees were structured well enough, “to produce legal services that people can afford.”

He said: “An independent examination now of the operation of the legal services market… would help to see if we have got the reforms right. This would be either for the government – perhaps by appointing an independent reviewer – or the select committee to conduct.”

He added, that he felt it was a “mistake” to remove the role of judges in regulating the legal profession that was included as part of the introduction of the act.

He also raised concerns about the potential damage caused to the UK from international competitors due to increasing court fees. He said the advent of the new Singapore International Commercial Court, along with nascent courts in Dubai and Qatar, and competition from the Netherlands and Germany was worrying and risked cutting of millions of pounds of much-need revenue for the UK court system and legal profession.

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