Three years in law school and passage of a bar exam are neither necessary nor sufficient to ensure expertise in the areas where nonlawyer services flourish; lay specialists may be better able to provide cost-effective services than lawyers who practice in multiple fields.
This is a phrase from Deborah L. Rhode’s book ‘Access to Justice’ which she published in 2005. Deborah Rhode is the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law at Stanford University.
She is the founding president of the International Association of Legal Ethics, the former president of the Association of American Law Schools and the former founding director of Stanford’s Center on Ethics. She is the most frequently cited scholar on legal ethics.
According to Deborah Rhode, ‘Equal justice under law’ is one of America’s most firmly embedded and widely violated legal principles. She could have written something similar about the United Kingdom.
Persons without legal qualifications are allowed to provide legal services in England, but they must limit those services to so-called non-reserved legal activities. Only solicitors and barristers can provide reserved legal activities.
The Legal Services Act 2007 defines those reserved legal activities as (a) the exercise of a right of audience (advocacy), (b) the conduct of litigation, (c) reserved instrument activities (conveyancing), (d) probate activities, (e) notarial activities, and (f) the administration of oaths.
I am not a lawyer and have no qualifications in any legal discipline. In practical terms, this means that I cannot conduct a lawsuit for you, cannot sign documents on your behalf, and I do not have the right to speak on your behalf in a court of law.
I do have a keen legal sense, a well-functioning brain and a strong drive for justice and fairness. For three years, I worked as a legal secretary at Clifford Chance, a leading English law firm, where I laboured many days, evenings, nights and weekends alongside highly paid and very capable top lawyers and legal secretaries to supplement my income.
In addition, I have appeared in court as a defendant during eviction proceedings for rent arrears. Eviction for arrears is very common in the UK and nothing to be ashamed of. It is often just as coincidental as breaking an arm or a leg, developing appendicitis, getting the flu, or slipping on a wet leaf on the pavement. I have also gone to court as a litigant in person, but I can’t say much more about that for legal reasons. I learned a lot from that experience.
I have even spent time in a British police cell after having been arrested as a result of what appeared to be a prank. (Foreigners who happen to drop by on this page and get a bewildering “what the heck?!” feeling after reading this should know that British jokes do not have that overall feel-good quality that foreign humour usually has, but produce Schadenfreude, and are often carried out anonymously. Most British humour resembles hazing. It expresses contempt. Britain is still a bit of wild west cowboy country in some regards though its culture has also many oppressive tendencies. You get used to it all, eventually, if you’ve lived here long enough, and I have.)
I don’t generally handle criminal matters, however. I like the chattel torts, and consider human rights very important. I enjoy the intellectual challenge of these legal areas. I particularly want to help people who face eviction due to rent arrears and have also taken an interest in the legal angles of policing. Because of my background in science and technology, I also understand medicoscientific angles, such as medical problems caused by environmental pollution.
Law and science are not as different as one might think. Scientists may be interested to read that a great deal of law will probably be automated in the future. That’s because good legislation can be turned into diagrams with “if then” questions and “yes/no” answers to some degree. That approach can deal with a large number of cases, albeit certainly not all.
The foundation of all law is philosophy. Philosophy also explores science. Philosophy is the love of wisdom, and that translates into the pursuit and study of, and enquiry into, wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight. That’s what experienced scientists do too. Desk research, reviewing, writing, editing, the application of logic as well as presenting and defending arguments are integral to both fields.