Legal aid and lawyering within a constitutional state in transition? About
the need for legal aid and the entrepreneurial spirit of lawyers
In this article we look back to the history and forward to the future of legal aid and the general position
of private lawyers. In the first part of the article we focus on the evolution of legal aid. Although the legal
aid act of 1998 was intended to promote the cooperation and the coordination between the various
organizations that provide legal assistance, this goal has not been achieved. Since the new Flemish act
on legal aid on the first line has been promulgated many challenges are at stake. The first one is the implementation of this act that favors a more holistic approach to the needs of the citizens in both social
and legal terms. The second challenge is how first-line legal aid can be aligned with second-line legal aid and how other forms of conflict resolution will be incorporated.
In the second part we focus on the future of the legal profession and other legal professions. We detect
a number of often paradoxical developments such as: a) globalization and the local anchoring of legislation, b) the evolution towards multidisciplinary partnership and teamwork and the relative stable
number of solo practices, c) liberalization of the legal professionals and the reservation towards entrepreneurship, d) the emphasis on alternative dispute resolution and the traditional way of dealing with court issues, e) digitalization and the raise of new legal professionals such as paralegals. In these evolutions the client should be central and the focus on the client should be translated into the codes of legal ethics and the disciplinary organization of the legal profession.
We finally conclude that lawyers who are not willing to evolve and to change their operating practices
and are not willing to face the diversity in their range of services will struggle. Those who accept the new technologies and consider and integrate new ways of providing legal services are likely to survive and will be even successful while the market of legal services changes and innovates.