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Should Non-Lawyer Ownership of Law Firms be Endorsed and Encouraged?
This topic is explored in a paper co-authored by Slater and Gordon Group Managing Director, Andrew Grech and Creative Consequences Director, Tahlia Gordon.
This paper was released following a presentation by Andrew Grech to the Commonwealth Law Conference held in Glasgow on April 13, 2015 .
Part 1 of this paper considers how Australia, England and Wales, jurisdictions that have amended their legislation to allow non-lawyer ownership and regulate external investment in law firms, have approached regulation in this area. This part discusses the particular regulatory framework in each jurisdiction and how these frameworks have been designed to ensure ethical and professional standards are protected.
Part 2 of this paper discusses concerns raised by critics of non-lawyer ownership that focus on the diminution of professionalism as a result of non-lawyer ownership of law firms. It is argued that these concerns are unfounded.
Part 3 of this paper argues that in addition to a robust regulatory framework, law firms which have non-lawyer owners are well positioned to effectively mitigate any risk that ethics and professionalism will be eroded. As the first law firm in the world to publicly list Slater and Gordon provides a case study of how a law firm which has a majority of external shareholders effectively safeguards professional standards. The measures implemented by Slater and Gordon to protect professional standards are outlined.
Part 4 of this paper considers some of the challenges facing the legal profession and identifies the risk that by not permitting non-lawyer ownership consumers are being exposed to legal (and quasi legal) services which are largely unregulated. The authors argue that whilst the emergence of these providers in the legal services market may be beneficial for consumers, their participation in the market needs to be property regulated.
The paper concludes with a discussion about how challenges facing the legal profession may also present opportunities for lawyers to improve professional standards and contribute to improving access to the legal system.