You might find the scope of the legal market a dull topic. But let me show you how it’s woven into the fabric of an average Brit’s day-to-day life.
For most, interactions with lawyers are rare and often leave a sour taste. Yet, ignoring price and hassle, legal services are fundamentally about enforcing your rights in a democratic society. Consider a typical day:
On awakening, although you shouldn’t do it first thing, you check your messages on your phone. By email, you’ve received a few hacking attempts – the standard ones – that your Netflix account has been suspended, blah blah blah. First criminal complaint of the day, but you’re not going to report it, because to whom would you report it? You’ve also received a number of emails from organisations that must have unlawfully acquired your information, because you can’t remember signing up to their newsletters. Here, there’s potentially multiple data protection claims, in addition to multiple reports to the Information Commissioner’s Officer. But you’re unaware of your rights and don’t have the time to look into it.
Then, on social media, you see misleading adverts, which could be reported to Advertising Standards Agency, but you don’t bother.
Using your phone – most likely built using minerals sourced in breach of Modern Day Slavery laws – you’re oblivious to the fact that your provider has breached competition law and have overcharged you – just a few pounds – for a number of months now. You, and millions of others just like you.
Into the bathroom you don’t even notice the mould around the shower, so tired you are of reporting it to the landlord. It’s not worth it, you say, as he has my deposit, or has he protected it in a deposit scheme?
At breakfast, you notice that one of the bananas you bought yesterday was bruised; that it will need to be binned, because it would be too much trouble to return it. Eating cereal instead, you don’t know whether the ingredients are precisely as stated, given your food intolerances. But you’ll risk it.
Getting into your diesel German car, you wonder if you would have leased it had the emissions information been accurate. Onto the road, you hit a little pothole, which had been there for over six months, or was it longer. The judder couldn’t have been good for the suspension. At a junction, you fail to give way to a pedestrian, unaware that the Highway Code was recently revamped. Driving at 32mph, keeping up with the other cars, isn’t the worst of crimes, you think.
Irked, you forgot that your usual road is closed, due to some hairbrained council scheme which local residents are up in arms about. But you don’t want to waste your time looking into, unaware of the concept of Judicial Review.
Walking into work, you pass numerous CCTV cameras, which don’t declare that they are filming you, in contravention of statute. But what can you do?
In the office, as often happens, you work more than your contracted hours, because you don’t want to get overly stressed again. Opening your emails, you see lots of customer emails which – in breach of contract – you haven’t had the chance to reply to. They can wait.
Going for a walk at lunchtime, unbeknown to you, you let some litter tumble out of your pocket. Your walking isn’t so good these days, because your GP misdiagnosed you with plantar fasciitis, when in fact it was a little fracture. No harm done, you were told. A little farther along, you stand in dog excrement. Disgusting. Who doesn’t clean up after their dogs!
In town, you notice that the proprietors of shop, which went into administration owing vast sums of VAT, have now opened a similar shop in a similar location. How can such charlatans get away with that? Anyway, what can you do.
Back at work, you engage in a phone conversation with a customer service representative regarding a recently purchased product for your company. The representative, not fully aware of the consumer protection laws, misinforms you about your right to a refund or replacement.
Later, while browsing the internet, you come across an article that uses one of your social media posts without your permission. This is probably a copyright infringement, but you do nothing. Meanwhile, the cookies on the website track your activity without clear consent, another data protection concern.
As you leave work, you overhear a conversation between colleagues that borders on workplace harassment. You do nothing, because a senior manager would make your life misery if you reported it, just like the last time that you raised an issue.
Arriving home, you find a flyer in your mailbox for a local business. The flyer lacks the necessary legal disclaimers, making it potentially misleading. You’ve also received a letter to say that you’re in arrears with a utility bill, to the new supplier who bought your original supplier when they went into administration. Whilst trying to get to sleep, the neighbours start yet another blazing row. As ever, you let it pass.
This day, typical in many ways, highlights an array of potential legal issues and infringements. Many go unnoticed or unreported. As a citizen in a democracy each law is mostly useless if the average person isn’t made aware of it, nor has the ability to use it. Thankfully, the advent of AI ought to allow citizens to know their rights and then to be able to enforce them. To my mind, this cannot come around fast enough, for usage of the law shouldn’t be the preserve of the rich.