The Covid-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on everyone, including the businesses and institutions that support access to justice and underpin the rule of law.
At the LSB, we are mindful of the needs of both the profession and consumers, and will ensure that we are not placing unnecessary burdens on others at this time whilst ensuring that effective regulation of legal services in the public interest continues.
We have been in contact with all the legal services regulators to discuss how we will work together during this period and the support that the LSB will provide. We have also been considering our own priorities and are keeping activities under review. Our Chair also wrote to regulators on 6 April 2020.
Looking forward, we will be turning our minds to consider the wider role that regulation might play in supporting and promoting economic recovery.
Our key priorities
On 1 April 2020, we published our business plan for 2020/21. The plan was developed and consulted on before the pandemic. Nevertheless, it remains the central guide to our ambition for the year. However, our plans remain flexible as the legal sector deals with and then recovers from the outbreak, and we are committed to playing a role in supporting that recovery.
In delivering our plans, we will adopt the following scheme of priorities, based on delivering our statutory obligations under the Legal Services Act:
- Statutory decisions, compliance with the Internal Governance Rules 2019 (IGR) and other core regulatory functions;
- Oversight of Office of Legal Complaints and Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal;
- Regulatory performance oversight of regulatory bodies, including concluding our current IGR consultation; and
- Our wider policy areas such as LSB strategy, ongoing competence, and technology, where we are taking a more measured approach to our external engagement.
We have published a flexible activity schedule which we will update regularly as milestones are planned for new areas of work as part of our response to Covid-19 developments.
Our response to Covid-19
We are developing our contribution to the Covid-19 response. Two early components of that response include:
- A fast track approvals mechanism for changes to regulatory arrangements that may become necessary as a result of Covid-19. This is in the process of being shared with all regulators and we expect it to be implemented very shortly. We have built on our experience with preparation for a no-deal EU Exit and colleagues will recognise elements of the new mechanism from that exercise
- We are beginning to build-up a set of common sector issues emerging from the crisis and we will continue to monitor the developing picture to ensure that we are able to support you as best we can in addressing regulatory challenges. Some emerging themes include:
- Relaxation of some regulatory requirements, such as continuing professional development (CPD) requirements, but also other regulations
- Cancellation of exams with rescheduling or seeking alternative means of assessment
- Deferring collection of practising certificate fees
- Areas of law where the current government guidance on social distancing and self-isolation, in particular, inhibits or prevents the delivery of legal services e.g. attendance to individuals in custody and in court, will writing requiring signature witnesses; where wet signatures are required; where other in-person presence is required
- Cancellation of events: rescheduling until later in the year or converting to online or teleconferencing.