Public opinion can also help the legal profession protect its monopoly. In the cases whereby non-legal sectors pressure the legal profession, lawyers and their advocates usually incite legal change by issuing press statement, addressing public meetings claiming that their interest are aligned with public interest and the needs of potential clients (Roach Anelu 2002). This can be seen in the example when plans by the Victorian state government to allow non-lawyers to represent people in court.
The plan met strong opposition of the Law Institutes claim that the proposal 'represents the most significant threat to the rights of clients to quality legal representation and advocacy in many years' (Coffey 1995 in Roach Anelu 2002) The author also notes that when successful claims that blur or distort the official lines that challenge the legality of jurisdictions, lawyers employed by government departments and business corporations will seek to demarcate their work from that of non-lawyers.
The legal community has in recent times made changes to the legal framework to increase competition both among lawyers and between lawyers and other sectors of the community (Roach Anelu 2002). The Trade Practices Commission has opened up the market in legal services which allow more flexible structures in the legal framework which includes the permitting of partnerships and profit sharing with non-lawyers, abolishing fee scales and the removal of existing advertising restrictions.
In New South Wales, the setting up of the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner (OLSC) which is an independent statutory office now presides over all complaints about solicitors and barristers (Parker 1999). The OLSC can either investigate cases by itself or pass them on to other self-regulatory bodies. In the most serious of complaints the OLSC can refer the case to an independent Legal Services Tribunal which has powers to discipline lawyers and grant compensation (Mark 1995 in Parker 1999).
There have also been changes in the demographic structure of law school graduate and new legislation which creates new kinds of legal service demands such as the entry of woman into the legal profession. The average lawyer id now younger and tend often to be from females and/or members of minority groups and less often practice law in small law firms. They are now more likely to be employed in federal or state government agencies, private associations, legal aid and larger private firms (Abel 1989 in Sutton 2001).
In conclusion, it can be seen that there are many aspects to the lawyer. Their work are not only restricted in the courtroom providing litigation. They also offer advice to regarding citizens' responsibilities, entitlements and rights; settle disputes outside courts; represent clients in negotiations and draft contracts and other legal documents. The legal profession had tried to in essence provide the highest level of service in which they can provide by remaining autonomous form governments and other political factions.
The extent in which they regulate themselves has been a hallmark of the legal profession yet pitfalls to for such a system and its potential abuse can cause consumers and clients to lose confidence in the legal profession being able effectively govern itself. It is evident that the legal profession did not actively pursue cases in which there were some ethical breaches of conduct by lawyers, rather the legal community were more concerned with breaches that imposed only upon other members within the community itself.
The legal community also sets up barriers to entrance to the legal community by imposing strict guidelines in which they can choose who is eligible to be part of the community. The legal profession can then manipulate these barriers such as the bar entrance examinations. The monopoly of the legality of jurisdiction in certain areas of law such as the rights to litigate in courts also serves tool to protect members from market pressures.
However, in recent times, all this has changed due to the different influences. The advancement of technology and the change in the demographics of the legal community has rendered some legal practices obsolete or redundant. Increasingly lawyers are being recruited into larger corporations and certain skills that were once only in the lawyers domain has been classified as routine such as the drafting of a will.
The lawyer also faces stiff competition with the deregulation laws that used to protect their monopoly. Progressively, more non-lawyer occupations now have a legal right to perform legal work that was once reserved by lawyers. The role of lawyers today can be seen in two lights; one view is that there is a gradual decline in the quality of legal services due to the erosion of fundamental concepts that has shaped the legal profession.
On the other hand, the integration of lawyers and other non-lawyer occupations within the legal context can be viewed as a natural progression in which society advances itself when each profession is not restricted to being in a specialized field but encompasses a range of multi-disciplinary skills.
Parker, C. , (1999), Just Lawyers: Regulation and Access to Justice, Oxford, Oxford University Press. Roach Anleu, S. , (2000), Law and Social Change, London, New Delhi, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Sutton, J. , (2001) Law and Society: Origins, Interaction and Change, London, New Delhi: Pine Forge Press.