Legal Services Board

LSB News

Issue 1 :: Autumn 2013

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Legal Services Board: Chief Executive's Introduction

Chris Kenny, Chief Executive

Welcome to this first edition of LSB news.

This is a simple initiative to keep all Parliamentarians and Assembly Members in England and Wales informed and up to date about ongoing regulatory changes in the legal services sector.

Reform and modernisation of the legal services market is the key goal of the Legal Services Act 2007. This Act of Parliament is the reason the Legal Services Board (LSB) exists, independent from both Government and the legal professions. Protecting the public interest, improving access to justice and making the legal market work more effectively for business and individual consumers are the objectives we strive to realise every day. And that means seeking to nurture innovation in and beyond the profession.

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 this edition in more detail – our contact details are at the end of the newsletter.

This first edition highlights:

  • What happens when people with learning disabilities need advice about the law
  • The LSB response to the Government’s review of legal services regulation
  • Education and training consultation
  • Lay chairs for the boards of all approved regulators
  • Evaluation of changes in competition
I hope that you enjoy our newsletter and I look forward to continued engagement with you and your Parliamentary and Assembly colleagues.

- Chris Kenny, CEO

Legal Research: What happens when people with learning disabilities need advice about the law?

People looking at documents in a coffee shop

People with learning disabilities often need access to justice more than other people, but also often face far more difficulties in accessing services.

Research undertaken by the Norah Fry Research Centre on behalf of the Legal Services Board, the Legal Services Consumer Panel and the learning disability charity Mencap shows that a range of good practice exists, but that too often lawyers are uncertain how to communicate with people with learning disabilities and lack the knowledge themselves of where to get specialist support.

For more information please click here. An easy read version of the report for people with learning disabilities was produced, together with a short explanatory video, aimed at providing an informative and accessible summary of the findings.

All of our research can be found at the research pages on the LSB's website.

A blueprint for regulatory reform

Red Tape Challenge Website

The Government call for evidence (closed 2 September) asked for proposals to simplify the legal services regulatory framework while retaining appropriate regulatory oversight. Our blueprint for reforming legal services regulation is designed to achieve these aims, stimulate economic growth in the legal sector and the businesses it serves and also offer better protection for consumers.

We make clear that more limited and proportionate regulation, independent of both profession and government structurally, legally, and culturally is key. The blueprint recommends a medium-term goal of a single body wholly unrelated to any existing organisation – with professional bodies playing a standard setting role rather than controlling the right to offer services.

We have also called for greater powers for the Legal Ombudsman to investigate complaints in relation to all legal services. But, although redress should be available for all services, any other regulatory requirements should be strictly related to the level of risk.

The legislative framework for legal services regulation should be simplified significantly in the coming two to three years to move in this direction, and Government should instigate an independent review to develop timetabled and costed proposals for implementation.

For more information about 'A blueprint for reforming legal services regulation' please click here.

Consultation: Legal education and training

Legal Education and Training Report Cover

In November 2010, the Chair of the Legal Services Board, David Edmonds, gave his Lord Upjohn speech posing the question of whether the existing system of education and training was fit for its purposes. Almost three years later in June 2013 the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) delivered its response to this challenge.

Responding to this, the LSB has launched a consultation on proposed guidance for education and training in the legal sector before regulators proceed with detailed plans for implementation. The intention is to ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction, even if the detail is different.

The closing date for this consultation is 11 December 2013. More information about the consultation can be found here.

Lay chairs for the boards of approved regulators

The LSB has also launched a six week consultation on the introduction of a rule requiring lay chairs for the boards of regulators. We are now considering whether this should be mandatory in order to give confidence to consumers in the practical and cultural independence of regulation. This is not intended as a criticism of any current or past chair, but overly strong ties to the history, culture and rules of professional self regulation can have a negative impact on independent regulation.

The closing date for this consultation is 19 November 2013. More information can be found here.

Research: Evaluation of changes in competition

At the LSB we are keen to ensure that the rationale for the regulatory reform is not neglected. The Act gives each approved regulator, the Legal Ombudsman, and the LSB a legal duty, as far as is reasonably practicable, to deliver the regulatory objectives.

As part of ensuring this happens effectively we undertake work to monitor and report on how the reforms are impacting on the legal services market. Our analysis this year focused on the regulatory objective of 'promoting competition in the the provision of service in the legal sector'. This analysis found that:

  • Just half of firms have grown turnover, but levels of unmet need remain similar for both individuals and small businesses;
  • New business structures have increased market share over the past three years and are more productive, as measured by turnover per fee earner;
  • New business structures have a higher complaints resolution rate for complaints about service;
  • Publicised innovation is most prominent in new businesses and larger solicitors firms;
  • Regulation is still reported to be a significant barrier to innovation and growth.
A summary of the report can be found here and the full analysis will be published on 22 October.

Want to get in touch?

Legal Services Board
One Kemble Street

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.