The UK’s “Democratization” of the Professions: Case Studies

Read a few techno-utopian pieces on the future of US legal practice, and you’ll see, again and again, “lessons from Britain.” The UK “legal industry” is lauded for its bold innovation and deregulatory verve. Unfortunately, it appears that in its enthusiasm to make a neoliberal omelette, the green and pleasant land is breaking a few eggs:

Gap-year students are being recruited by the Home Office to make potentially life or death decisions on asylum claims, the Observer has learned. The students receive only five weeks’ training. . . . Immigration lawyers and asylum seekers have condemned the practice, pointing out that, after completing a degree, immigration lawyers undergo a further four years’ training. . . .

A health professional from west Africa who was granted refugee status last year said his claim was initially refused and it took four years of appeals to win his refugee status. “I attempted suicide after my asylum claim was refused because I knew my life would be in danger if I was forcibly returned home,” he said. “I became friendly with a family where the son had taken a gap year during his university degree to work as a Home Office decision-maker. I could not believe that he was making these life and death decisions about complex cases like mine. I am not sure that students are capable of the complex level of critical analysis required to make asylum decisions.”

Meanwhile, the British Health Secretary is telling parents that, hey, Dr. Google may be just as good as a regular physician. Expect to see the new “democratization of the professions” accelerate fastest among those without the resources to resist.

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