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A law society in current and former Commonwealth jurisdictions was historically an association of solicitors (effectively the trade organisation for solicitors) with a regulatory role that included the right to supervise the training, qualifications and conduct of lawyers/solicitors. Where there is a distinction between barristers and solicitors, solicitors were regulated by the law societies and barristers by a separate Bar Council.[1]

Much has changed for law societies in recent years, with governments in Australia, New Zealand, England and Wales, and now Scotland (2010) creating government sponsored regulators for lawyers (both barristers and solicitors), leaving to law societies the role of advocacy on behalf of their members.

In Canada, law societies have had statutory responsibility for regulation of the legal profession in the public interest, leaving advocacy to the Canadian Bar Association.

In the United States, unified bar associations are somewhat similar to Law Societies, however there are differences between law societies and the general American phenomenon of bar associations. Usually a bar association is an association of lawyers; lawyers may or may not join as they wish. Regulation of American lawyers usually takes places through the courts, which decide who gets admitted as a lawyer, and also decide discipline cases. Law societies are often created by legislation and play (or played) significant direct roles in the training, licensing and disciplining of lawyers. The conflict or roles between being a regulator and a trade association is seen by many as giving rise to the recent move to government sponsored regulators.

In Italy, the first law society (Bocconi International Law Society or B.I.L.S.) to be created is present in Milan and connected to Bocconi University School of Law.

Law Societies also play a role as part of the justice system, and concern themselves with access to justice. As a result, they may offer paid and unpaid legal assistance to the public or specific target audiences, and have historically been involved in the development of legal aid plans.

See also[edit]

Law societies in the British Islands and Ireland[edit]

Law societies in Continental Europe[edit]

Law societies elsewhere[edit]


  1. ^ In Scotland barristers are called Advocates and are members of and regulated by the Faculty of Advocates.

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