Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Cultures of professional knowledge and competence : issues in the training and regulation of legal advice providers in the U.K.

By Hilary Sommerlad and Pete Sanderson


The last two decades have seen a rapid transformation of the professional structures relating to the provision of publicly funded (legal aid) legal advice and support in the U.K. Market control theorists have seen this process as a symptom of the withdrawal of State shelter for exclusive practice rights , while other commentators have seen the process as a ‘renegotiation of professionalism’ whereby lawyers have been drawn into a new relationship with stakeholders. The wider context for these developments has been the growth of New Public Management, and the contractualisation of relationships between public service providers and ‘consumers’.\ud \ud \ud \ud This process took a new direction with the development of the Community Legal Service, and the extension of support by the Legal Services Commission to advice agencies in the Not For Profit (NFP) sector, as part of a programme of legal aid reform. This reform, it has been argued, has been characterised by the residualisation civil legal, the marginalisation of legal aid lawyers working in the sector, and a drive to substitute Alternative Dispute Resolution, and advice, for civil litigation. This paper traces the history of these developments before exploring in detail the implications of the increasingly diverse character of advice providers in the sector, from professional solicitors in private practice, through paid advice workers in advice agencies to volunteer workers in Citizen’s Advice Agencies. Aspects of the different cultures within which the professional knowledge and competence of workers are deployed are discussed., such as the client-centred ethos of the NFP sector, for example time-work cultures. The development of a Quality Assurance system for all publicly funded legal advice workers is discussed in terms both of its effect of these cultures, and as an example of significant change in the relationship between the State and NGOs. The issue of knowledge capture and standardisation appears increasingly

Topics: LC5201, K1
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1998). (2001a) ‘The Community Legal Service: Justice for All?’, Consumer Policy Review,
  2. (2003). A & Paterson A doi
  3. (1992). A Strategy for Justice, London: Legal Action Group
  4. (2000). Bowling Alone: the collapse and revival of American Community, doi
  5. (2001). Can Associationism come back?’,
  6. (2001). Deschooling and the Web: Ivan Illich 30 years on’, doi
  7. (1971). Deschooling Society, Harmondsworth: Penguin Illich, I doi
  8. (1996). Fast, Friendly and Expert?: Legal Aid Franchising in Advice Agencies without Solicitors,
  9. (2001). I’ve lost the plot”: an everyday story of the “political” legal aid lawyer’, doi
  10. (2000). Lawyers, CABx and the Community Legal Service: A new Dawn for Social Welfare Law Provision?’, doi
  11. (1998). Purchase-of-Service Contracting, Voluntary Organizations and Civil Society’, doi
  12. (2001). Sobre a estruturacao de redes sociais em associacoes voluntaries: estudo empirico de organizacoes nao govermentais da cidade do Recife’, doi
  13. (2002). Social Capital and Factors affecting Civic Engagement as reported by leaders of Voluntary Associations’, doi
  14. (2002). Social Partnership – is it “the only game in town”?’, doi
  15. (1988). The Legal Profession in doi
  16. (1999). The Legal Profession: Regulation and the Consumer, doi
  17. (2000). The Third Sector and welfare state modernization: inputs, activities and comparative performance’, Centre for Civil Society, Civil Society Working Paper No 14, London: London
  18. (2001). Third Way Regulation? Community Legal Service Partnerships’, The Modern Law Review, doi
  19. (1998). Voluntary Associations and the theory of autopoietic systems’, Paper delivered to the International Sociological Association.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.