Are Lawyers Regulateable?
This paper has sought to show that the current framework of professional regulation is unlikely to change in a significant way any time soon. While reforms in some jurisdictions have been hailed or criticised as altering the foundations of the legal profession, it is the view of this author that nothing of substance has changed. Any meaningful change to the regulation of the legal profession faces significant barriers. These barriers are largely structural and do not presuppose that lawyers are necessarily obstructing or opposing change in any concerted or organised way. Changes to date have left the profession substantially in control of its own regulation and discipline although in some cases formal power has been placed in the hands of independent third parties. Such change is incremental, peripheral, and does not alter the reality of lawyercentric regulation. My argument is simply that given who lawyers are, what they do, and the natural inclination to self interest, regulation is difficult at best, and arguably impossible to achieve in any meaningful way. The nature of lawyers work means that most of what they do is never open to scrutiny and client are either motivated to be complicit in wrongdoing, or have good reasons not to complain. In the event that a complaint is made the issue is generally framed in terms of whether the lawyer has breached professional standards. Those standards are drafted and interpreted by lawyers who are sympathetic to the vicissitudes of legal practice and are wary of imposing unduly onerous duties on their fellows.