Legal services regulation now faces review

Profession
Ministers have embarked on a wholesale review of legal services regulation, following concerns over its complexity and the “unnecessary burdens” it places on the sector.


In a written statement to the House of Commons on 3 June, Justice Minister Helen Grant announced that the review would consider how to simplify the framework, whilst retaining “appropriate regulatory oversight”. The full breadth of the legislative framework is in scope, which is underpinned by at least 10 pieces of primary legislation and over 30 statutory instruments.

The Ministry wants to hear comments on the interaction between the legislative framework and the detailed rules and regulations of the approved regulators, licensing authorities and the Legal Services Board (LSB) and Office for Legal Complaints, “although we recognise that these are not owned by the Ministry of Justice,” Grant said.

A call for evidence kicks off the review. Ministers will decide next steps following an analysis of views and is seeking feedback from all involved in regulating, monitoring and providing legal services (email: legalservicesreview@justice.gsi.gov.uk).

Currently, the supra regulator, the LSB, oversees all eight frontline legal regulators in England and Wales, and the Office for Legal Complaints. It is independent of government and the legal profession and came into being in 2010, created by the Legal Services Act 2007. There have been tensions and complaints over duplication in the regulatory state for some time. At a Justice Committee evidence session into the work of the LSB in March, its Chairman David Edmonds recommended that Parliament should set up a single body, absorbing all eight frontline regulators.

Meanwhile, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has passed its first performance review in each category. Edmonds praised the BSB’s “welcome frankness” in its self-assessment and said its challenging work programme showed “a high, but necessary, level of ambition”. He warned, however, that the proposed timescale was “tight” and would be dependent on “significant leadership being shown by the Board of the BSB coupled with strong management by the executive”. The BSB must do more, he added, to embed the regulatory standards and an outcomes focused regulatory approach into its day-to-day operations.

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