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John Flood

Lawyers have been aware of the commodity aspect of their services for a long, long time. The City of London Solicitors Company in its evidence to the Benson Commission on Legal Services in 1977, said that English law was a product in competition with other kinds of law, American, French, Dutch, etc. And indeed, ever since then various Lord Chancellors have reinforced this view of law as an invaluable export contributing to invisible earnings.

The extent of this will vary according to the field of law. Obviously corporate law is the one least affected by commoditization, as the services are pretty fungible. One might take a different view with criminal defence work, but the government push in the funding of legal aid is to ensure that field is fully commoditized with the cry of "value for money".

There always has been and always will be an irreconcilable tension between the tenets of professionalism (vocation, calling) and those of business (profit, revenue maximization). This is one of the reasons that lawyers are supposed to consider the ethics of their chosen craft. My view is that professionalism, as it is idealized, is an historical artefact...long gone.

Tariq Akbar

Commoditization does not have to happen to legal services as a whole. Certain tasks can be definitely commoditized within reason. Document review is a good example which can be commoditized to an extent. I think the legal community needs to think hard at the root of why this change is happening. My take is its because many people are tired of paying too much. You can't take away the fact that there are many many clients out there who have to pay enormous amounts in legal fees and they need some alternative to chip away at this. The legal community should move collectively and proactively to offer these options to clients as opposed to them demanding it.

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