Legal Services Board

LSB News


Issue 2 :: Winter 2014


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Legal Services Board: Chief Executive's Introduction

Welcome to this second edition of LSB news.

A number of important developments have occurred in the legal services market since the first edition.

One of the most eye-catching has been the LSB’s decision to recommend to the Lord Chancellor that the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in England and Wales be allowed to regulate firms and individuals offering probate services.

The second is the conclusion of our investigation into inappropriate influencing of the Bar’s regulator, the Bar Standards Board by the representative body, the Bar Council.

The third was the decision of the High Court to reject the judicial review against the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates.

Information on these matters, and the next steps to be taken on will-writing, can be found below.

As with the first edition, I hope that you will find this bulletin informative. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you wish to discuss any of the issues highlighted in more detail – our contact details are at the end of the newsletter.

- Chris Kenny, CEO

Chair, CEO and Minister at opening of LSB offices

(L-R) LSB Chairman David Edmonds, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice Shailesh Vara MP, LSB Chief Executive Chris Kenny at the official opening of the LSB’s new premises at One Kemble Street on 21 January 2014

QASA Judicial Review

QASA Logo

On 20 January 2014 the High Court delivered its judgement in favour of the Legal Services Board (LSB) in the judicial review against the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).

QASA is an assurance scheme intended to address the issue of substandard advocacy in the criminal courts in England and Wales. The judicial review had been brought against the LSB for its decision in July 2013 to approve the scheme.

The High Court’s ruling comprehensively and systematically rejected each of the grounds of challenge raised by the claimants in relation to the scheme, which had been developed by the Joint Advocacy Group and submitted to the LSB by the Bar Standards Board, ILEX Professional Standards Limited and the Solicitors Regulation Authority. President of the Queen’s Bench Division Sir Brian Leveson stated that “in our judgement, the scheme is lawful, does not contravene European law and falls well within the legitimate exercise of the powers of the LSB and the three regulators that submitted it to the LSB for approval”.

The Chair of the Legal Services Board, David Edmonds, said:“the High Court's judgement vindicated the integrity of the LSB's process". He added: “those who need access to justice have a right to expect that regulators and advocates alike, acting in the public rather than self-interest, will constantly seek to assess and improve the quality of legal services”.

The Court awarded costs to the LSB and Bar Standards Board.

More information can be found on the QASA website.

LSB investigation into Bar Council’s influencing of the BSB in rule making

In late November, the LSB announced the results of its investigation into the Bar Council’s failure to comply with the internal governance rules (IGR) in its dealings with the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

This investigation focused on the Bar Council’s behaviour in relation to the BSB’s development and submission of an application for approval of a rule change. The investigation found that the Bar Council:

  • failed to comply with the requirement to at all times act in a way which is compatible with the principle of regulatory independence
  • failed to comply with the IGR requirements to ensure the exercise of regulatory functions is independent of any representative functions
  • actions had an adverse impact on protecting and promoting the public interest by undermining the principle of independent regulation.
The Bar Council accepted all of the findings of the investigation and the outcomes required to remedy them and the matter has been resolved informally.

The LSB approved the protocol agreement between the Bar Council and the BSB, published on 20 December, which offers robust safeguards to prevent similar failings in future.

For more information about this investigation please click here.

Designation application decision

ICAEW Logo

In mid-December the LSB issued a recommendation to the Lord Chancellor that the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) should become an approved regulator and licensing authority for probate activities (a reserved legal activity).

This recommendation, should the Lord Chancellor accept it, will mean that ICAEW-regulated individuals will be able to offer a limited range of legal services to consumers.

This decision is important because it has the potential to increase choice and reduce costs, and should enable firms to offer a more integrated service to consumers who, in non-contentious cases, will be able to use a single adviser.

To be clear however this will happen not just because accountants will be able to offer these services. It will also happen because existing legal providers will ‘up their game’ to meet this challenge - with the consumer ultimately benefiting.

At the same time, we also recommended for approval similar applications by the Chartered Institute for Legal Executives to add probate and reserved instrument activities to the list of reserved legal activities that it can authorise. An application from the Intellectual Property Regulation Board, on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys), for designation as a licensing authority, was also approved.

For more information about these decisions please click here.

Will-writing next steps

Image of a written will

In May 2013, the Lord Chancellor declined to accept the LSB’s recommendation that all will writing services should be regulated.

The Government argued that further effort should be made to address the problems through alternatives to new regulation.

In response the LSB has asked all relevant regulators to demonstrate that they are taking necessary steps to tackle the identified issues, such as strengthening existing regulation, voluntary schemes and codes of practice, and educating consumers on the different types of provider and options for redress.

The LSB convened a roundtable of providers (regulated and unregulated) of will-writing services on 22 January to help facilitate discussions among industry participants.

As a result of the Government’s decision, the onus now is on the regulators, and the regulated and unregulated providers of will-writing services, to improve standards and thereby earn consumer and public confidence.

For more information about the follow-up to the Lord Chancellor’s decision please click here.

LSB appoints new Chair of Office for Legal Complaints

Picture of Steve Green

On 2 December the LSB announced that, after an open competition, Steve Green was to be selected as the preferred candidate for the post of Chairman of the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC).

The OLC is charged by Legal Services Act 2007 with administering and overseeing the Legal Ombudsman scheme.

Mr Green, a former Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police and a current member of the Legal Services Board, appeared before the Justice Select Committee for a pre-appointment scrutiny hearing on 10 December.

The Committee’s view was that Mr Green is “well-suited to take up the position of Chair of the Office for Legal Complaints. He has considerable relevant experience and he will bring to the position substantial knowledge of the work of the Legal Ombudsman and of the operation of the wider system of legal regulation”.

The Justice Select Committee’s report on the appointment of the Chair of the Office for Legal Complaint can be found here.

Steve Green will assume the Chair of the OLC in April 2014 when he will stand down from the LSB.


Want to get in touch?

Legal Services Board
One Kemble Street
London
WC2B 4AN

Web: www.legalservicesboard.org.uk
Email: info@legalservicesboard.org.uk
Tel: 020 7271 0050
Follow us on Twitter: LSB_EngandWal

You can also get in touch with the Consumer Panel, which advises the LSB on consumer issues, here.


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