Contesting Professionalism: Legal Aid and Nonlawyers in England and Wales


  • Richard Moorhead,

  • Avrom Sherr,

  • Alan Paterson

  • The authors would like to thank the editor and anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article. We also gratefully acknowledge Lisa Webley, Sarah Rogers, Lorraine Sherr, and the late Simon Domberger for their assistance on the original research. We would also like to thank the numerous lawyers, advisers, and legal aid staff who participated in our research but must, for obvious reasons, remain anonymous.

Address correspondence to Richard Moorhead at Cardiff Law School, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3XJ Wales; e-mail:


Professions are granted a form of cartel that enables them to charge more than would arise in a free market on the assumption that they provide better quality and are more trustworthy than free-market actors would be. The theoretical assumption that lawyers are more competent than nonlawyers has given rise to significant formal protections for professions in many jurisdictions. Two testable propositions arise from this theory: (1) lawyers cost more, but (2) they deliver higher quality. It is a testing of these twin propositions that is the subject of this article, with well-triangulated data and a deeper understanding of the theoretical differences between lawyers and nonlawyers.