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.
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 am not a lawyer and have no qualifications in any legal discipline. I do have a keen legal sense, a well-working 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 more about that for legal reasons.
I have even spent some 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. Britain is still a bit of wild west cowboy country in some regards, though its culture has also many highly oppressive tendencies. You get used to it, eventually, if you’ve lived here long enough, and I have.
When it comes to the law, I like the chattel torts, consider human rights very important and enjoy the intellectual challenge of the dilemmas they contain. Because of my background in science and technology, I also understand medicoscientific angles, such as medical problems caused by environmental pollution.