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Legal Profession

It's not so long ago that advocates in any court had to be legally qualified. There was a fall-back position for those who were unable to afford their own solicitor or barrister and were, for one reason or another, going to find it difficult to present their own case. The reasons were, for example, that they were not sufficiently literate, or that they were disadvantaged by poor, or no, English or that they were of an exceptionally nervous disposition. But things have gone badly wrong.

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It used to be that the solicitors branch of the legal profession in England and Wales was compelled to purchase its professional indemnity insurance (PII) from a single, approved, insurer and the cost was very high. Rightly, the profession voted to widen the scheme to permit approved PII to be purchased from third party insurers on a competitive level. But things have not gone according to plan and the latest crisis threatens the future of several firms.

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There are those who misguidedly think that the world would be better off without lawyers. The UK legal profession's problem is that it has for so long abandoned its long-standing principles that it's become utterly rotten from within. Add in the deliberate destruction of the profession by successive governments and it's no surprise that there is a crisis from which few will emerge unscathed.

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A decision in an English court in the case of JG v the Legal Services Commission says that a party who is in receipt of legal aid (state funding) will not generally be authorised to obtain an expert witnesses report with full funding. But it's not that simple.

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Judge Jane Richards Roth of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is an example of how a humble first job is no bar to professional success.

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The Legal Services Board is supposed to be the regulator of regulators for the legal profession in England and Wales. Its leader is not a lawyer and has, therefore, never been in practice. When the Legal Services Board wanted a review of "The Cab Rank Rule," they turned to a couple of academics and told them to read about it and write about what they found. They were both eminently qualified (not), having written a lot of stuff, read a lot more (quoting a lot of it in the stuff they wrote). Oh, and neither of them had ever held a responsible post in law or, for that matter, outside academia. And it's been a pointless exercise in proving the obvious, says retired solicitor Nigel Morris-Cotterill

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It's not a Trojan Horse, it's not a dolphin with a limpet mine attached to its back and it's not a rat with a lighted stick of dynamite taped onto its back running into its own oblivion. No, it's cat, coolly walking into a prison, through the main gate, with hacksaw blades, a mobile phone and other contraband held on with clear sticky tape. A break-out Kit-e-Kat (say that in mock Portuspanish and it kind of works)

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The Australian Securities and Investments Commission "has compulsory information gathering powers to require disclosure of information. This power may be exercised in respect of our regulatory work. However, information that attracts a valid claim of Legal Professional Privilege (LPP) does not have to be provided." ASIC has released an information sheet explaining the position.

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The English High Court has named four solicitors who have fallen foul of the Court's requirements when issuing immigration appeals.

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It's all becoming a little too Orwellian. When the previous, Labour government created the "Ministry of Justice" it sounded more 1984 than we were comfortable with. After all, the whole point of the various ministries in the book is to deliver the opposite of what their name promised. Recent changes to costs are removing access to justice except for those that can pay.

And it's all building up to look like a raid on solicitors' firms.

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An administrative Court in the UK has issued a warning to solicitors that it will require the attendance before it of the solicitor having conduct of a case plus the senior partner of the firm to give an explanation as to why applications are made late, are incomplete or have no merit - and, if it is not satisfied with the explanation - to publicly name them.

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The biggest revolution in the English legal profession is under way. Not only does it appear that the Bar is carefully managing to take back its previous control of advocacy in the higher courts, new schemes to register approved advocates in some lower courts are dividing the solicitors branch. But these pale alongside the chances that have allowed solicitors practices to incorporate under a Limited Liability Partnership structure and to take in private equity.

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The Legal Services Board, an industry body representing and - after a fashion - regulating lawyers in England and Wales, is to propose to The Lord Chancellor that will-writing and post-mortem legal services should be "reserved" - that means only those falling within the scope of the LSB's supervision should be allowed to do them. That's going to cause a near riot. And it may be another nail in the coffin of small firms.

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New York law firm FARUQI & FARUQI, LLP specialises in class actions, especially those where it alleges misconduct in relation to securities which, it usually claims, leads to a significant fall in share prices, thereby causing losses to shareholders. It's frequent press releases call upon those who held shares in companies at relevant times to join in the action they hope to mount and to get paid on a contingency basis. But all is not rosy.

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Mexican company Grupo Mexico S.A.B. de C.V. is more than a little peeved. Its US subsidiary Americas Mining Corporation applied to the Delaware Supreme Court for "re-argument" as to legal fees in the case of Americas Mining Corporation, et al., v. Michael Theraiult, as Trustee for the Theriault Trust, No. 29, 2012. The court said "no" and in doing so has demonstrated the conflict of interest inherent in contingency fee ("no win, no fee") arrangements.

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