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Study: British Lawyers Get No Respect

Legal and other professionals play vital roles in supporting Britain's economic, political and social structures. Yet they don't get the respect they deserve, from either the government or the general public. That is the conclusion of a research report released today, British Professions Today: The State of the Sector. The report was prepared by Spada Research, a branch of the U.K. professional-services consulting firm Spada, on behalf of three major professional organizations, The Law Society, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Professionals in the UK form part of the backbone of the services-based economy, play key roles in the political process, and, perhaps most importantly, provide vital services in our day-to-day lives. Yet, the professions have come under attack from dual fronts: from government, which often fails to consider professional expertise in relevant policy areas; and from the general public, which has come to view professionals suspiciously in an era of declining deference to authority.

The report is described as "a first attempt to set forth a condensed overview of the value and scope of British professions -- historical, regulatory, economic, social and political." It sets the stage for a broader discussion of the professions by tracing their history -- from their rise to prominence in the 19th century to their more recent decline in the perception of the general public. "Trends ... chart a slow but sure fall in the percentage of people who are very or fairly satisfied with the way that accountants and lawyers do their jobs."

While the report is heavy on reporting the sorry state of the professions, it is somewhat light on offering solutions. Its overarching recommendation is that the professions should not be taken for granted -- and that the professions should take the lead in ensuring that doesn't happen. To that end, it suggests:

  • Formulation of new methodologies and metrics for analyzing the professions as well as greater transparency and consistency in their reporting.
  • Cooperation among the professions in working together and speaking with a single voice to government and the general public.
  • Strengthening of professional standards, including rigorous qualifications, high-quality codes of practice, sufficient monitoring and appropriate disciplinary mechanisms.

Although the report's focus is the U.K., some of the research it draws on comes from the United States and a number of its findings are as fitting to professionals here as in Britain. Clearly, its central point -- that lawyers and other professionals need to address their decline in the public's esteem -- sounds resoundingly close to home.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 20, 2009 at 12:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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