BRIEFS : Lessons for the Law Society

All professional bodies face conflicting pressures to regulate and represent their members, according to research by the Law Society. The study - which also looked at other fields, including accountancy, general medical practice, architecture, de ntistry, social work and psychology - was carried out in order to inform the society about developments in other professions and to help it learn from the way other professional bodies carry out their functions.

The research found that professions are dealing with demands from the public for higher standards of service. These usually lead to further regulations, and the risk of alienating the membership. Outside regulation is increasingly limiting professional

bodies' freedom of action.

The most underdeveloped area in many professions is services to clients; little contact exists between professional bodies and potential clients of their members. A greater number of complaints are heard, especially of poor service. But most bodies have inadequate mechanisms for feeding the lessons from complaints back into the regulatory process, although there is a trend for compulsory post-qualification training.

Multidisciplinary co-operation is becoming more common; only solicitors and barristers are now unable to form UK-based multidisciplinary partnerships.

The study was conducted by Janet Allaker and Professor Joanna Shapland of the Institute for the Study of the Legal Profession at the University of Sheffield.

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