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New report predicts ‘self-lawyering’

Lawyers will continue to be marginalised in the English legal system as people representing themselves, or “self-lawyering”, becomes more prevalent.

A report by the Legal Services Consumer Panel details how the current legal system could adapt between now and 2020.

The report’s primary prediction was that the number of people who do not use lawyers due to a lack of funds is only set to increase. It goes on to claim that, as more people find themselves unable to afford legal representation, “calls will grow for radical solutions”. One possibility suggested is that disputes could be resolved online, which would effectively eliminate lawyers from the equation entirely.

As ominous as this sounds, there are already signs that lawyers are being slowly pushed out of the legal system. The coalition government has already hacked away legal aid for pretty much all family law cases. What is stop further cuts being made across other areas of the law?

The legal aid cuts are a miserable failure. The government wanted to save money but all they have achieved is an epidemic of litigants in person clogging up the courts.

This “self-lawyering”, as the Panel likes to call it, has already proved to be a false economy. The reason for that is simple: people who represent themselves are not lawyers. They have no formal training and often have no real knowledge of the applicable law. It’s painfully obvious and yet the number of people who are trying to go it alone is dramatically rising.

The legal system works because of lawyers. We have studied the law for years, and continue to so throughout our professional lives. Lawyers understand how the system is supposed to work and, as a result, are the most qualified to navigate it. If any further steps are taken which will marginalise lawyers from that system, what’s next? The abolition of the courts? Throwing out the law altogether?

The Panel advises the Legal Services Board, an independent body of regulators for lawyers in England and Wales.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Nordic says:

    A previous blog introduced the notion of the “selfless family law lawyer on legal aid”. Now we learn that the poor creatures are also being marginalised. What has the world come to! I think we need some support groups to help disenfranchised family lawyers learn how to cope with the loss of their previous rich vein of business.
    Actually Marilyn, I don’t think you have to worry. It would take a reduction of something like 60-80% of existing family lawyers to come anywhere near the marginalised status of family lawyers in places such as the Nordics. Legal aid won’t do this. A legally binding regime matrimonial asset division might make a real dent, but somehow I don’t think that’s on the cards. Your Nordic counterparts will remain green with envy!

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