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A Forward Look

I have spent a lot of time in print lately looking back over the first seven years of the organisation that began as ILEX Professional Standards and is now CILEx Regulation. It is right, after all, to enjoy achievements as well as plans. But where will CILEx and its members go next?

At a time of rapid and unprecedented change in the organisation and delivery of legal services, there is only one thing of which most of us can be sure: that we don’t know where it will all go. Will law firms steadily merge into ever-larger conglomerates, until we are looking at something like the banks or the big retailers? Will they transform into a network of smaller, niche units offering specialist services to specific client groups? Will alternative business structures deliver the developmental and customer service possibilities that were originally claimed? Will we see the creation of the ‘one stop shop’, offering a range of legal, financial and property services under one roof? Would that be a bad thing?

What of the individual lawyer? The ‘family solicitor’, like the family doctor, is now in many places a thing of the past. Will we see further moves away from face to face contact as legal advice, like medical advice, begins to be based on generic online material, followed up only when the client judges it necessary? If ‘artificial intelligence’ really gets going on the law – and early indications are that it has promising things to offer when it comes to problem solving – what does that mean for legal education and training? What sorts of knowledge and skill will be needed to input correctly into such systems, and to interpret what comes out at the other end? Again, only one thing is certain for now – that these things will be different from the past.

How about the future for CILEx lawyers? Chartered status, rights of independent practice and the ability to have a firm regulated within CILEx itself have all changed the game, opening up possibilities for recognition, alongside those who hold other legal titles, for partnership, ownership, judicial appointment and membership of professional panels previously the sole preserve of others. CILEx Regulation’s ability to license and regulate ABSs will follow as night follows day.

The changes which are continuing to gather momentum are not confined to the law: they are part of a trend which has demonstrably been transforming professional services generally over at least the past generation. Professional roles have been shaking out to the places most fit for them: appropriately trained nurses now do what could once be done only by surgeons; pharmacists

Professional standards for specialist lawyers 5

do things once reserved for doctors; pharmacy technicians, in their turn, do things which were once done only by pharmacists. Chartered Legal Executives now do things once done only by solicitors or barristers.

These developments reflect changes in society rather than just in the professions, and they are consumer-driven: higher levels of education, access to unlimited quantities of information, globalisation, legally-underpinned consumer rights and expectations, more focussed and specific regulation, and sheer market forces - these are the key factors.

The only thing that is not changing is the fact of change itself. So the opportunity is there to be grasped: suitably qualified CILEx lawyers can already be advocates, partners, judges. Now they can conduct litigation, sign off previously reserved legal documentation, run their own businesses. There is talk of access to the higher courts and even to QC status – why not, if an individual can meet the standard (which should not of course be lowered)? There is no reason why a lawyer coming through the CILEx route should not aspire to such things.

I look forward to seeing many new business structures led by lawyers regulated by CILEx Regulation. I look forward to the day when the calling card for a lawyer is not an antique title but the legal specialty in which they are recognised as safe and competent. I look forward to the day when the qualities of the CILEx route have put it where it belongs – in the legal mainstream.

Alan Kershaw Chair, CILEx Regulation

I look

forward to the day when the qualities of the CILEx route

have put it where it belongs – in the legal main- stream.

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