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.
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.
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.
Famous quotes containing the words law and/or society:
“The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of laws, where there is no law, there is no freedom.”
—John Locke (16321704)
“In a number of other cultures, fathers are not relegated to babysitter status, nor is their ability to be primary nurturers so readily dismissed.... We have evidence that in our own society men can rear and nurture their children competently and that mens methods, although different from those of women, are imaginative and constructive.”
—Kyle D. Pruett (20th century)