Regulation, Access to Justice, and the New Legal Realism: Searching for Connections

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deregulation of legal services, access to justice, regulation of lawyers, new legal realism


What does access to justice have to do with legal services regulation? Can we make it easier for people to defend their legal rights and pursue social justice by liberalizing rules about the provision of legal services? This brief paper will begin by reviewing the economic argument that legal services regulation impedes access to justice. Although this argument has strong appeal in theory, deregulatory reforms have not always delivered their accessibility benefits which the economic critique promises. Moreover, economic criticism of legal services regulation tends to assume that lawyers are simply market actors, as opposed to members of an independent profession whose maintenance has value to clients and to the public. The paper will therefore conclude by suggesting that empirical inquiry using a new legal realist (NLR) methodology can make a constructive contribution to this debate.