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Futures Summit Background Paper

13 September 2018
 

Just as supply is linked to demand, consumers are inextricably linked to the legal profession – essentially, we couldn’t have one without the other. There is a growing recognition of the need to link legal services with other services under a holistic, interconnected and clientcentric view to better suit the needs of consumers and, more broadly, the community interest in an efficient, effective and responsive legal profession.

This is particularly relevant for improving access to justice for the vulnerable, disadvantaged and marginalised in Australia, and the ‘missing middle’, although the same trend is evident for many other consumers of legal services.

At the same time, there are a diverse range of emerging influences which are commonly regarded as capable of disrupting the nature of legal services, and the way in which those services are delivered to consumers. The impacts of technology, coupled with changing demographics of the profession, have led to the beginning of a modern legal landscape.

NewLaw firm models have emerged against the backdrop of more traditional law firm models. Younger generations of lawyers may need to possess more than just legal acumen and practical legal skills to be employable in this new environment, and at the same time may be seeking more flexibility in the way they work, including the ability to work remotely or by freelancing. The regulatory and ethical environment in which law is practised and legal services are delivered is extensive and complex.

Statutory regulation has been evolving – or perhaps accreting - for well over 100 years, for the large part in response to specific problems as they have arisen. Regulatory reform exercises have by and large focussed on creating a high degree of uniformity, or at least harmonisation, of regulatory laws across the States and Territories. Legal ethics is also a product of history, of the development and adoption of ways of thinking and behaving as members of a profession, as the legal profession has evolved.

Regulation and ethical prescriptions that arise only in response to identified problems are essentially backward looking. To deal with the emerging future we need to try and think ahead, so that statutory regulation has the scope and flexibility, and the profession can continue to act ethically, in response to the evolving technological context of legal practice.
 

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