Greece, although not known for its adherence to EU rules, has the union’s most heavily regulated legal profession. Under statistical indices developed by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna, Greece has a regulation burden of 9.5, while the laissez-faire Finns score a tiny 0.3.
The survey was based on responses from national professional associations. It assessed regulations on market entry and conduct. These included rules on fees, advertising and marketing, inter-professional collaboration, geographical locations and practice organisation.
The UK is a comparatively lightly regulated jurisdiction, with a factor of four. Most EU member states scored around six, for instance France came in with 6.6, Germany with 6.5, Italy with 6.4 and Spain with 6.5. Other more liberal countries were Ireland, which scored 4.5, Sweden with 2.4, Denmark with 3 and the Netherlands with 3.9.
The institute concluded that lower regulation was better, because there was evidence that it encouraged the growth of legal services without leaving consumers unprotected. There was evidence that low regulation regimes led to lawyers earning less, but there was a proportionally higher number of practising professionals generating a relatively higher overall turnover.
Speaking to the German Federal Bar Association in Berlin, EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said: “Professionals would also gain from healthy competition. They may be better able to adapt their services and innovate to meet the evolving needs of the users.”