Volume 23, Number 2

Implications of the UK Legal Services Act 2007 for US Law Practice and Legal Ethics

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Implications of the UK Legal Services Act 2007 for US Law Practice and Legal Ethics

Sweeping changes in legal services provider regulations in England and Wales under this seminal 2007 legislation reflect the new law’s consumerist philosophy and commitment to opening up law services competition, among both lawyers and other providers. For US jurisdictions, three aspects of the Legal Services Act UK developments may have particular relevance: (i) the authorization of a single independent authority to oversee regulation of all legal services providers; (ii) the development of regulatory objectives to guide all regulation of providers; and (iii) authorization of alternative business structures.

Regarded by many in the field as the father of modern legal ethics, Professor Monroe Freedman (1928 - 2015) was an unyielding advocate of social justice and defendants’ rights, and a champion of the lawyer’s duty to the client, above all others.

One of the challenges for legal ethics is that lawyers who live the dilemmas of legal practice cannot always appreciate or deeply reflect on the issues those dilemmas raise, while academics who write about legal ethics cannot always appreciate the complexities and realities of the contexts in which the dilemmas arise, writes a legal ethics scholar and Freedman co-author. As a result, lawyers may not see what the dilemmas mean, while academics may not see what the dilemmas are. Monroe Freedman bridged that gap, perceiving accurately and clearly the ethical issues that arise in practice, and the conflicts of principle and policy that both create those issues and make them difficult to resolve.

The prominent human rights lawyer, a friend of Freedman’s for 50 years, reflects: What does it truly mean to be a lawyer? Monroe addressed this question in so many contexts that no summary can do him justice. His is an integrated, considered body of work, based on human experience – his own and that of colleagues and clients. And, as you can see in everything he wrote, he also took vicarious account of injustices recorded in annals of the law and the lawless. . . His ardent, insistent, probing, sometimes fierce or sardonic – almost never solemn – methods of inquiry led him to embroider the main themes of his work with new examples and insights, and even at times to go back and change an emphasis or rendering.

Freedman’s close friend and frequent collaborator notes that among Freedman’s exceptional traits was “his extraordinary staying power. He did not simply tackle a few issues, obtain tenure and a deanship, achieve fame, and call it a day. In the last few months before his death, he published an op-ed in the National Law Journal on the need for independent prosecutors in police shootings of unarmed African Americans. . . , consulted with a national juvenile defense organization on ethical issues posed by certain practices in juvenile court, provided guidance on a controversy relating to a public defender office’s participation in a hip-hop video on police violence, organized a course at Hofstra on Lawyers and Social Change, and finished an article on lawyers’ ethics for the Hofstra Law Review.”

Freedman’s former Hofstra Law colleague Susan Fortney notes that Freedman’s scholarship uniquely engaged the profession of law. Not satisfied with writing articles for the academy alone, he authored many seminal works that tackled difficult questions encountered by lawyers in the trenches. Freedmen’s article Professional Responsibility of the Criminal Defense Lawyer: The Three Hardest Questions, is among the legal ethics articles most recognized by practicing lawyers. . . . Monroe challenged impractical theory that was unrelated to the concerns of practicing lawyers and judges. As observed by Professor Alan M. Dershowitz, “Monroe brought to the academy the realistic complexity of what lawyers actually face.’

A colleague remembers Freedman’s exceptional generosity, as well as his rare skill as a legal educator: “When I asked Monroe if I could attend his class, of course he said I was welcome any time, and he meant it. His teaching technique was effortless and effective. He would often start with a simple anecdote – something out of his own experience – and then ask the students what the anecdote taught them. The hands soon flew up around the room and the students became fully engaged. They understood that the professor standing before them had not merely studied legal ethics, he had lived it. His emphasis was not on theory but on practice. How did lawyers apply the Rules of Professional Conduct and the principles of the adversary system in the messy, blurry world of everyday law practice? As with the title of his (and Abbe Smith's) book, his emphasis was on understanding lawyers’ ethics, not just reading and talking about it. I tried to imitate Monroe's style in my own classroom, but he was inimitable – or at least I never felt that I could imitate him. He was beloved by his students, and he loved them.”

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