The following comment piece by Clive Sutton, honorary secretary of the Solicitor Sole Practitioners Group (SPG), appeared in the The Times on 22 September 2011
Why the legal Big Bang is so dangerous for the rule of lawMuch like in 1986, warnings were given about the deregulation of the financial markets.
Without the Big Bang, banks would not have been able to indulge in their commercial “casino” lending that led to the financial crisis and the present recession.
The introduction of Alternative Business Structures will have far reaching consequences that the Lord Chancellor has not considered.
* the compromising of independent legal advice via the corrupting influence of the profit incentive and the loss of viable independent sole practitioners on the market.
* English firms will be unable to open offices in the other European or American jurisdictions because commercial ownership is not compatible with those jurisdictions, their European and American counterparts will instead be able to exploit the British marketplace.
Small and medium-sized businesses have a proven track record of providing the vital growth that our economy is in desperate need of. There is a real danger that your high street solicitor will go the way of other high street providers when a supermarket comes to town, that is, out of business.
The rule of law, that the Justice Secretary recognises as one of our greatest exports, is threatened when independent, bespoke legal advice is not on offer. Supermarket legal advice may lead to generic, cost-driven services that threaten often vulnerable clients access to justice – turning the client into a customer.
Alternative Business Structures are untried and untested, and we would urge Ken Clarke to think again before putting his name to the system that corrupts the established and respective legal system Britain has built up over centuries.