Helen Philips, Chair of the Legal Services Board: Good afternoon everyone and many thanks for taking time to be with us at what might well be the end of a long day for you. We’re grateful for your interest in The Legal Services Board. I’m Helen Philips, I’m the chair of The Legal Services Board and I’m going to be joined by two colleagues this afternoon on the call, Flora Page is one of our newest recruits as a non-lay member of the board and Holly Perry who is our director of enabling services and will be taking a key role in progressing this recruitment. So, you’ll hear more from both of them this afternoon but I’d just like to kick off, if I may really, with a few slides to help you get your bearings around the LSB and what it is we do. We don’t expect you to be able to recite this to us at the end but you’ll have done some homework, but this might give you a few more insights and hopefully if you are serious about making an application for this vacancy, or indeed for vacancies that arise in the future it might well give you a kind of good starting point in terms of some of the areas you’d like to look into a bit further. So, the first thing I should probably say is that, you know, this appointment is a public appointment. It’s made under all the usual OCPO rules and it will be made by the Lord Chancellor in consultation with the Lord Chief Justice and the MoJ take the lead on the process and the vacancy will be of the Cabinet Office Public Appointments website.
So, you know, it is the MoJ who are leading this but we’re very pleased to have the opportunity to work with them in collaboration and particularly doing this webinar, which is the first time we’ve done this. In order, I suppose, to make sure that people understand the opportunity, understand a bit about the organisation and that we get a deep and broad feel of our diverse candidates. That’s the reason we’re, kind of, reaching out in the way we are on this occasion. A little bit about who we are. We’re an arm’s length body of the Ministry of Justice and we have a number of really important relationships as the oversight regulator for all the approved regulators of professionals in the legal services sector. We also have a particularly important relationship with the Office for Legal Complaints who provide the legal ombudsman services, which provides redress for those who had legal services which hasn’t met their expectations and we also have a particular responsibility for approving the budget and any changes to the rules under which the solicitor’s disciplinary tribunal work. In addition to that we have a panel and the Legal Services Act 2007 requires us to have a panel in so that we get really good quality advice about consumer issues.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t attend to consumer issues as The Legal Services Board, obviously we do but it’s quite expert that panel and we really appreciate the insights and advice, and indeed challenge we get from that group of people. So, that’s a little bit about some of our most important relationships, so just moving on. Now, this looks much more complicated than it feels in practice, if I’m honest. So, the 2007 Legal Services Act brought into being the Legal Services Board and one of the reasons the Legal Services Board was necessary was the apparent complexity of this slide, so you’ll see on the top line in the kind of purple-y blue-y indigo colour the list of approved regulators and those approved regulators are also the representative body for that branch of the legal profession. They are required to completely delegate their regulatory functions in order that there is appropriate independence secured between the representative and regulatory functions. It is our job to make sure that that is indeed the case. So, you can see in the red line below the body to which those approved regulators on the top line delegate those regulatory responsibilities. There are some exceptions to that, as you will see in that the Council for Licensed Conveyancers and the Master of the Faculties doesn’t have a representative body and they are the regulatory body without that relationship with that kind of approved body.
Then you can see all the various branches of the profession on that kind of bottom line there, solicitor, barrister, chartered legal executive and so on. Ten branches of the profession in total for which we are responsible for providing that oversight. So, that gives you an idea of the nature of the role, so if we just move forward a little more to look at the regulatory objectives. The regulatory objectives are what the Act says the Legal Services Board should be doing. It also very helpfully says that they are the regulatory objectives that apply to each of those ten front line regulators. So, we have that in common and they’re not a load of words and an act, they are actually really potent and something of a kind of guiding North Star for us in terms of what it is we’re here to do. They’re very important words about promoting the public interest, you know, supporting the principle of the rule of law, improving access to justice. I don’t intend to read them at you but, you know, if you just take a moment to reflect on each of them you can see there are fairly solemn responsibilities that are conferred on The Legal Services Board. It’s also I think very interesting and revealing that they’re not in any way graded or numbered, or not meant to interpret them in the order in which they’re listed there.
They each have a prominence and an equal footing really in what it is we need to do. Of course sometimes we have to hold some of these regulatory objectives and the tension that they imply but it is a very, you know, whilst the act was somewhat criticised for the complexity of the administrative landscape it has created, albeit I have to say and as indeed I have said, it’s not as difficult in practice or reality, these regulatory objectives were extraordinarily, carefully and helpfully crafted. They have been carried through really faithfully into the LSB strategy. I can just show you a little bit on this next slide now about our strategy. We’ve just refreshed our strategy and we have made sure that those regulatory objectives are at the heart of what it is we do and the strategy has been themed under three main themes and each of those themes has, kind of, three definitions of important outcomes. If we look at fairer outcomes, we know there’s a lot of unmet legal need across large parts of society, not only individuals for particularly small and medium sized businesses so it’s really important that we play our full role in that because that is a huge part of access to justice. Achieving fair outcomes for people who have vulnerabilities or some sort of disadvantage but, of course, there’s an implied asymmetry in the relationship between consumer of legal services and provider of legal services, that means that, you know, we need to be careful and broad in our interpretation of vulnerability or disadvantage.
For the profession itself we have a very important role in ensuring that the profession is reflective of the consumer’s and the society it serves and we know that, you know, while there’s been great strides made over recent years, not least of all at entry or admission level to the profession, that falls all fairly rapidly in terms of gender and ethnic diversity as you progress through your career. So, we have a very sharp focus on that. The second theme is around stronger confidence, so this is about high quality legal services and strong professional ethics. As our chief executive says, ‘It’s not just a good profession that your mother is proud to see you go into,’ but with great rights come great responsibilities and about the importance of consumer protection that is implied by strong professional ethics being a very important role for us. Closing other gaps in consumer protection and reforming the justice system and redrawing that regulatory landscape, if not fundamentally but in terms of how we get a good cooperation and collaboration across those regulators in the interest of simplicity and clarity, and indeed economies of scale and reduce regulatory burden on professionals and indeed then in terms of the on costs for consumers of legal services. Then moving to better services, empowering consumers to obtain high quality and affordable advice.
It’s an interesting from some of our research people who avoid taking legal advice, either because they don’t know that they’ve got a legal problem or because they anticipate that it is going to be more difficult to access that it is or that it’s going to be unaffordable, and sometimes it is more affordable than they might realise at that point of having that need. Fostering innovation is obviously very important and it goes hand in glove with supporting responsible use of technology, better technology of course being used in such a way that it continues to command public trust and confidence in people taking legal advice. You can see the strategy has been fairly broadly drawn but there are a clear set of priorities within that which we come onto in this next slide. So, I’ve already spoken a little bit about our work on diversity and inclusion. It’s really important to us we have moved now from just having guidance for front line regulators to enshrining certain requirements around diversity and inclusion reporting and actions on it into our performance assessment framework. Each of those front line regulators has regular performance assessments by the LSB across a whole range of issues but, you know, diversity and inclusion is not front and centre of that.
Some of you will know that the CMA did a market study some years ago and came back to that market study in terms of how legal services have progressed and have found there are still some gaps and have encouraged the LSB to step in to progress those, which we are more than happy to do. We spoke a little bit about technology and innovation, so maybe just let me pick out ongoing competence which is a particular area of focus for us at the moment because the law as well as the last bastions where you can qualify in your 20s and retire in your 60s or 70s with I’m sure plenty of opportunities for continuing professional development, perhaps not the same opportunities that the public would expect for an assessment of competence throughout your career. We’re bending our mind to what the appropriate models of that will be. Of course as an evidence-based organisation that has responsibilities not only in the areas I’ve described to you on the strategy but on a whole load of what I’d call, kind of, day-to-day business about attending to rule changes and a whole host of regulatory actions that need to be taken on the back of performance work or indeed guidance we need to issue.
We’d want it to be research based so we do a lot of that and in addition to the consumer panel we’ve also now constituted a public panel so that we can understand not only what the profession think and what consumers think but what is society we serve more broadly than a narrow definition of consumers may have by way of reasonable expectations of the legal profession. So, just moving on again to come now to the role of the board, if I might, and of course this is a board vacancy. The board is the mind of the organisation and it gives strategic and policy direction to our executive colleagues. We provide input to the key decisions and indeed are accountable for a number of decisions that are reserved to the board and making sure, of course, that we comply with all the expectations of the Ministry of Justice on us as an arm’s length body who are discharging that scrutiny function of the board but also making sure that we outreach to our stakeholders in a way that means we’re being influential with our stakeholders in pursuit of those regulatory objectives beyond just the more narrow set of regulatory levers at our disposal. That’s about the role of the board and then if we look again now at this vacancy.
This vacancy is for somebody who is a practising lawyer or a legally qualified professional because the board is made up of not quite half lay and half non-lay because there needs to be a small majority of lay members of the board but the vacancy at the moment is for a non-lay member of the board. We obviously will be keen to role model those requirements for putting on the front line regulators in terms of quality diversity and inclusion in our own appointments but also in the people we have around that board table really taking that seriously. Obviously we need wise heads and strong intellects. I always say I chair a number of organisations but chairing the LSB is probably the one where you need to be on your mettle most in board meetings because we have a lot of-, how would I describe it? Intellectual challenges in terms of some of our policy decisions to come to, you know, to come to a consensus and an understanding on. Of course, as in all roles at this level good communication and relationship building skills are absolutely key. We have said that we’re open to be fairly broad in making this appointment but if you had experience of practice in the public sector or of practice in the third sector they are areas where we don’t have a particular set of insights around the board table at the moment but also experience in deploying technology in legal services would be another very helpful perspective.
As you’ll find out in a moment when we speak with Flora, you know, we already have a high street solicitor on the board and in fact that high street solicitor is a dual qualified solicitor and a chartered legal executive. We have a barrister on the board in the form of Flora and we have a solicitor from a city firm. We don’t have to be too slavish in terms of making this decision and we can take a decision in the round but, as I say, those areas are ones that we will be particularly interested in at the moment. So, I think at that juncture we’ll just pause briefly, if we may, and go across and we thought the best way to, kind of, maybe bring to life for you a bit about what it might really be like to be a board member at the LSB is to have a chat with Flora. I’m just going to start by asking Flora to introduce herself and just tell you a little bit about who she is and where she comes from. In the same breath, Flora, before I get onto anymore questions, you might be just kind enough to say also about what it is about your experience that, kind of, interested you in applying for the role at the LSB.
Flora Page, Non-lay LSB Board member: Yes, hi. I’m somebody with a fairly varied legal career. I started off at Clifford Chance in the city, that was where I did my training contract and about a year after I qualified in their civil litigation department I decided I wanted to move to criminal practice. So, I joined quite a niche criminal firm where I was able to get Higher Rights of Audience quite early on and began what then led to pretty much a sole interest in the advocacy side of things. I also spent some time part-time at the Law Commission alongside that, so I did some policy work at the Law Commission particularly developing what became the Fraud Act. Then I had a reasonably long spout as a self-employed solicitor advocate within a chambers of solicitor advocates.
Flora Page: I set up my own small firm and that was with a role of being the advocate for the firm with a partner who did the litigation. And then ultimately I sold that firm and I moved to the Bar. And so, that’s been my more recent career has been practising in chambers at the Bar. I have had a spell more recently also at the financial conduct authority where I was again going back to, sort of, policy development and in particular I was looking at address for victims of financial malpractice and that was consumer address really. And now I’m back at the Bar again. My most famous claim to fame at the Bar has been the recent case involving the victims of the Horizon post office software. I acted for three of the victims of that. Gross miscarriage of justice in their successful appeal to the court of appeals. So that’s my, sort of, recent claim to fame. And that probably tops off an introduction to me and my career. But, then the other side of it is what interested me, what, sort of, brought me to apply to the legal services board. And that brings on another little string to my bow that I’m also very interested in. I’m doing a part time PhD at the moment and that focuses very much on regulation. So, I’m fascinated by regulation. That, sort of, ties in of course to having spent this period of time at the financial conduct authority, financial regulation. But legal regulation is perhaps more personal because as a lawyer I do feel very strongly about our responsibility to the public and almost feel personally fronted when lawyers don’t abide by the high standards that we ought to.
And I’m interested as well in the dual profession. When I say the dual profession, that’s the big chunks of the legal professions, the solicitors and barristers, and I’m interested in how we deal with that. There are a number of different reasons why I was interested in the work of the legal services board and why I wanted to apply for it.
Helen Philips: And we’re very glad you did. So, just talk us through, Flora, you know, how you found the application process. Did you have any qualms? Did you have any concerns? Did you have a sense of what it was you were going to bring to the legal services board? And how easy or hard did you find it all?
Flora Page: Well I looked at the criteria and I thought pretty solidly I could say that I met those criteria. And that told me as well that I was right in my feeling that I would be interested in the work of the board because the two really go hand in hand don’t they? If you look at the criteria and you think, ‘Yes. That’s me,’ then the chances are you’re going to be good for the role. So, I suppose the only refinements I would put on that is that it was useful for me and I dare say would be useful for others to think about the criteria with that frame of mind that many of us who’ve been either on one or the other side of the recruitment process have started to think about is competencies. And the, sort of, evidence that you want to bring to demonstrate your competencies is something I’ve found very helpful and others no doubt would point you towards as well is to use the STAR framework. And that allowed me to really express why I thought that I met competencies or the criteria. So, if that’s something unfamiliar to you it means that you describe the situation that you’re talking about, something from your experience, STAR situation. Task is the T in STAR. Your action, and it’s important to focus on what you did. And then the result. And of course you don’t have to be slavish about it but if you have that in mind it’s quite a good technique for demonstrating that you have got some experience that demonstrates your competency in the criteria set out.
Helen Philips: Well I shouldn’t be at all surprised if you carried STAR through to your interview, Flora. Because I do remember it was a pleasure interviewing you. You were succinct, you were clear, you gave us examples of, you know, your assertions. So, it seemed very easy for us. But tell us a bit about how it was from your perspective.
Flora Page: Well of course it’s always nerve wracking and it was nerve wracking for me because I don’t have an extensive record on boards. This was a first proper big board appointment if you like. So, I was conscious of that. But, Helen was my chair, she put me very much at ease. And I felt like I was given an opportunity to, sort of, set my stall out if you like. So, it was a good constructive interview I would say.
Helen Philips: Good. So, when you arrived at the board, you know, you’d been appointed to the role, and you’re with us a year and two months to add it up, time flies. How have you found it, Flora? You know, it what regard has it met your expectations and what regard has it, kind of, surprised you in terms of the role of the board member?
Flora Page: Well I think I can honestly say that the pleasant surprise is just how well functioning the board is. I mean, although I haven’t sat on a board in a formal non-exec role I’ve done quite a lot of committee work in representative committees both the Solicitors’ Association of Higher Court Advocates and then the Criminal Bar Association. And, you know, I was familiar with a lot pitfalls of committees and how people can like the sound of their own voice a bit too much and how certain people can dominate and those sorts of problems. None of which I have found to be problems on the legal services board. And it’s a really great dynamic of people who listen to one another but who are challenging when appropriate, respectfully challenging. It’s clear that everybody gets their say. I think it’s a really well functioning board. So, that’s been a happy, well, I don’t know if it was a surprise or not, but certainly a happy thing to find. I would say that the reading has also been absolutely fine to manage because we have very good executive as well. And our board papers are-, they’re not overwhelming, you can navigate through them reasonably-, you know, without having to spend disproportionate amounts of time to understand what the issues are going to be for the meeting. And it’s been, yes, it’s been a reasonably swift learning curve I suppose of getting used to digesting the board material in good time to be able to contribute effectively in meetings and it’s been great.
Helen Philips: How did you find the induction process Flora? Was that well pitched, or, you know, is there anything else we should be adding to that for the future?
Flora Page: Well I think it slightly happened in my case because although my interview was just before lockdown, my induction was once we were fully in proper lockdown and so everything was via video. And just reading under my own steam. And all the materials were very useful and it was excellent to meet people over video and so forth. But it would be nice and I hope that in future intakes you’ll be able to overcome that, sort of, slightly strange way of being inducted into a new position. But it was really nice to meet all the key people at the LSB which we did one on one as part of my induction process and I think that was very valuable.
Helen Philips: The other thing I’d like to ask you about the board of course is that we have have lay and non-lay members and it’s important we get a range of non-lay members, solicitors, barristers and other branches of the profession. But, of course, you’re not there in a representative capacity, you’re bringing that experience and insight short of advocating for or representing because obviously you have to act independently. How did you find it having to, kind of, and indeed as only the second barrister on the board of the LSB and there was quite a lot of excitement wasn’t there, and prominence given to the fact that we were now going to have another barrister which we’re really pleased to have achieved. But how do you find it taking off your barrister hat, bringing your insight but acting independently as board member at the LSB?
Flora Page: Well actually it comes pretty naturally for me. And I think that’s because I came into the LSB and applied to the LSB because of my sense that I want to make sure that lawyers uphold the highest standards. And so, in fact if I used my position as a lawyer to give insight, quite often it’s from the point of view of thinking, ‘I bet I know what the profession’s going to say when they try and resist this.’ Rather than because I want to support what they’re going to say. It’s more that I think, ‘Okay, that’s going to be their line of attack.’ That’s going to be where their self interest, I’m afraid, will kick in. And if anything it’s that that I would then bring to the board and say, okay, well, for example, when it comes to ongoing competence or whatever, there may be some arguments that would be raised at that particular-, ways of doing ongoing competence which may well be valid. But quite often I’m going to recognise those arguments which are made really through, I’m afraid, self interest, and recognised. And because I know how it works to be on the receiving end and how awkward it can be to be told by a regulator that you’ve got to start doing this or you’ve got to start doing that, you know.
Helen Philips: You talked about the fact that we’re well supported by the executive which of course I have to agree with you. We have a fabulous executive team. And you talked about board papers being well put together. So, it’s not a disproportionate effort. But it’s still hard isn’t it Flora, kind of, balancing your day job with making a contribution to a board, particularly, you know, a non-departmental public body board. You know, it’s a prominent, big role. How have you found that in practice?
Flora Page: It does involve a lot of prioritising and re-prioritising and, sort of, to-do lists with sections and in my case a number of different diaries which have different people managing different parts of my diary and having to constantly keep a bit of an eye on that and try to avoid clashes. So, you know, there is some juggling to be done and, yes, it does involve some strong self organisation skills because there’s only so much that other people can support you with on that front when only you know all of the different diary commitments that you’ve got and all of the different ongoing work that you’re doing.
Helen Philips: And if I was to ask you to characterise the legal services board in a few words, what would they be?
Flora Page: I would say dynamic. I feel that we’re in a really good phase of trying to be ambitious and move the agenda forward in a big way. So, I would say dynamic. But I would also say amongst ourselves friendly, supportive and well functioning.
Helen Philips: Thank you Flora. Last question from me if I may, what advice would you give to people on this call who are maybe thinking about will I won’t I, words of wisdom?
Flora Page: I think it comes back to something I’ve already touched on which is really make sure you have an interest in the work of the board. That I think is fundamental. If you are struck by what we’re doing and if you think it sounds like the sort of thing that you would have views on, you would be interested in reading about, that you’d be happy to build all of that into your already busy life, then go for it because it’s great.
Helen Philips: Flora’s going to be happy to take other questions from people on the call as indeed will I and Holly. But just before we go to your questions, Holly’s just going to take us through the practicalities of this vacancy and what’s required and timeline and all of that.
Holly Perry, Director, Enabling Services at the Legal Services Board: Thank you very much Helen. Hopefully everyone can see the slides again. There’s just a couple of slides to talk through now. So, yes, just some practicalities. Lots of this information is on the public appointments website, the cabinet office public appointments website in relation to this role. So, please do go and have a good look there. There’s plenty of information to work through. So, yes, in terms of what you need to put together, it is a CV, no more than two pages. Obviously is important to make sure that your CV is tailored for this role, so think about that as opposed to perhaps to drawing on your executive CV perhaps if this is your first time as a non-executive, have a think about what to include. The personal statement also needs to be no more than two sides of A4. So, this is really key, this is an extremely important piece of the application and as Flora described in her Q and A there with Helen, applications which offer the specific and tailored examples against the criteria in the person specification are going to be the strongest. So, that’s where you make very clear your role in achieving an outcome. So, Flora used that STAR acronym. I’ve also used another one in the past which is CAR, which is what is the challenge, what is the action and what is the result.
So, again, keeping one of those acronyms in mind. Structuring the statement around the criteria using the headings from the specification also aids clarity for the panel. Obviously they’re going to be dealing with a lot of paperwork, so anything which helps navigation is going to be extremely helpful. There is very specific guidance on the public appointments website about how to put together a personal statement, so very important to have a good look at that. In terms of other things you need to put together for your application, there are a number of forms that the Ministry of Justice require. So, I’ll come onto conflicts in a minute. But there is a form on significant political activity that you have to fill in which is around primarily party political activity. There is a form which asks you to set out the other public appointments that you might hold. The Ministry of Justice also require you to provide referee details for two referees. These won’t be contacted until you are actually short listed for interviews, but it just eases the process for them to have those details to hand ready. And there is also a diversity monitoring form to be completed which really obviously requests for monitoring purposes only, it plays absolutely no part in the selection process and the panel don’t see those forms.
So, coming back to conflicts of interest, this is an important one. And it’s really about interests that might be relevant to the work if you were to be successful in this role as a non-lay member which could lead to real or perceived conflicts of interest if you were to be appointed. So, details do need to be provided. And this is about the fact that this is a public appointment, it’s a significant public appointment and it’s important for public bodies and for the confidence of parliament and the public to maintained for obvious maximum transparency and maximum disclosure. So, if there’s anything in relation to conflicts of interest or previous conduct, so, for example if there’s ever been an occasion where there have been issues which have been reported or picked up on in relation to your personal or professional history which could if you were appointed then be misconstrued or cause embarrassment. It’s really important to bring those to the attention of the panel. And you should also consider in terms of this whole area, sort of, statements you’ve made in the public, for example, via social media. So, those are the forms. There’s a short note there just about commitment, the time commitment, 30 days per year. It’s a four year, ten year and a £15,000 per annum. And this particular appointment starts in April 2022. So, then see if I can move the slide on. In terms of practical steps, in terms of the timeline.
So, closing date is the seventh of September. It’s obviously really important to make sure you get all of your paper work and all the forms in by that time. I would always advise that you get somebody to proofread, have a read over your application before you submit. Then the panel go onto consider those applications at what’s known as a sift meeting and that’s scheduled for the 27th of September. Candidates obviously not needed for that. And at this meeting the panel considers all of the applications and narrows down the group to be called forward for final panel interview. Details there and also on the public appointments website of who makes up the four person panel. So, it’s chaired by an official of the Ministry of Justice, Helen as the LSB chair, there is a high court judge representing judiciary and an independent member who is there to make sure that the process adheres to the rules set down by the commissioner for public appointments. So, shortly after the 27th of September, after the sift meeting Ministry of Justice will be in touch to give you an outcome. Final interview numbers are usually around four, maybe a maximum of five for one role. Then in terms of the final panel date for this recruitment round we’re looking at the second of November. I’m not sure that’s been completely confirmed yet but as soon as it we’ll make that clear on the public appointments website.
For now, the interviews are continuing to be conducted via Teams or Zoom. So they are remote but of course that will move in future to being back to face-to-face interviews at the earliest opportunity. And where possible interviews for board member roles of the LSB will be held at the LSB’s offices so that candidates have the opportunity to come in and see the offices and see colleagues and so on. So, as Flora mentioned, the interviews are competency based. The criteria from the person specification are used to frame the set of questions. You might want to think about different examples to use than the ones that you’ve included in your personal statement to give the panel a real sense of the full breadth of your experience. There may be a short presentation at the start of the interview. So the panel will decide that a bit nearer the time. But the topic will be communicated well in advance so that you’re able to prepare for that. And primarily that’s used as a way to help candidates to warm up ahead of the main questions. You can also usually expect an early question on motivation. So, why you’ve applied for this role and why now is the right time. And the panel take turns in asking questions. And there will be some house keeping questions that come at the end including that due diligence question that I mentioned at the beginning. So, questions relating to conflict and any aspects of your background that you feel that you should draw to the panel’s attention. So, after the interviews have concluded, there may then be quite a period of time before you hear anything in terms of an outcome.
Obviously you can keep in touch with the public appointment’s team within the Ministry of Justice who will be able to keep you posted on what the developments are but effectively what happens is that the panel puts together a report for the lord chancellor and the lord chancellor then considers that and the recommendation of the panel as to the recommended candidate and sometimes that can take a little while. So, if the interviews in this case do take place on the second of November I would suggest it’s probably unlikely that there will be an outcome before January and obviously if it’s a bit later it might be a bit after that. But we’re in good time here because as I say this appointment doesn’t take effect until mid April so hopefully we will remain on track in terms of the timetable. And there should be an opportunity to seek feedback also at the end of the process. And if you’re not successful it’s always advisable really to seek some feedback just to help for future non-executive roles that you’re applying for, so that’s highly recommended. So, that’s it in terms of practical steps really. There is information on the public appointments website in breaking down who to contact about particular queries.
So, if you have queries about the role itself and what’s involved, conflicts or eligibility then the contact point is myself. So, my email address is on the public appointments website, or you can contact me via the board secretary email address on this slide. If you have questions about the application process itself or the timetable or the panel or sift arrangements or interview arrangements then the public appointments at the MoJ can help with those. So, that’s the end of the third part of the session and so that means we’re now going to stop sharing I think. It means we’re going to move into the Q and A session. So, questions from participants. Now we’re using a Q and A tool which should all be visible to those of you are participants to address questions and they can be relating to this role or future roles. We’ve also had some questions that have been submitted in advance which we can through. We will obviously attempt in the time that we’ve got left which is about fifteen minutes, to answer as many questions as we can. If we don’t get to all of them or if they’re quite specific and not likely to be more general applicability to others on the call then we will pick those up separately but we’re planning to put together an FAQ sheet to publish alongside this recording which will go up on our website, a transcribed version of this recording. So, for privacy reasons we’re not going to read out the names.
And these cannot be seen by any of the other attendees. And when you’re submitting your questions you can choose the option of checking the anonymous question box so make sure that’s ticked when you submit your questions and those will remain entirely anonymous. So, I think without further ado we’ll move to some of the questions that we had that came in in advance.
Helen Philips: Just before we do, let me thank you for that. That was super. I mean, I was just sitting there thinking isn’t this really helpful. It was very clear. And, you know, we’ve applied for a variety of roles over the years and I don’t think-, to have somebody to just take you through it step by step in that way was terrific so thank you very much for that.
Holly Perry: Good. No problem at all. Good. Okay. Shall we go straight into some questions then? I might take them just in the order that they came in actually, that’s probably the fairest thing to do. So, I think the first question is about, sort of, potential conflicts or eligibility. So, the person asks, I have previously been a board member with an approved regulator or regulatory body, would this be a barrier to being appointed? And this context the appointment was over ten years ago. So, I think, I mean, I can start and then perhaps Helen might want to come in. But certainly that isn’t a barrier. I mean, obviously Flora’s mentioned her previous experiences having been on committees of bodies which a connection. I mean, certainly we have current board members who’ve been members of committees and in fact the main bodies of the bodies that we regulate. So it certainly isn’t a conflict. But obviously what we couldn’t have is somebody appoint and hold that role at the same time. So, if you are currently a member of a body that we regulate or a sub-committee of a body that we regulate then you would need to be prepared to step away from that role in order to take up a role on the legal services board. But if it’s something that’s historic and that’s in your past that’s absolutely no problem at all. Helen, anything that you want to add to that one?
Helen Philips: No, I don’t think so that’s really helpful and clear. Thanks Holly.
Holly Perry: Okay. Now, the next one is, it’s a question about referees. Somebody has asked that given that referees are not contacted until after shortlisting, is it possible to share details at this point. And I checked this one with MoJ and they have said that that is possible. The reason why they’re asked for in advance really is just to the Ministry of Justice, it’s to help, sort of, just keep things speedy and efficient. But if it’s the person’s preference to hold those details back until the point they’re called for interview that’s absolutely fine, not any kind of problem. There was also a question-, sorry Flora.
Flora Page: I just thought it might be helpful to mention actually that in my own case because my referees for reasons too boring to explain had to change, it didn’t matter. So, the fact that I’d put down two and then I gave a different one at the later stage was fine, so, yes.
Holly Perry: Great. Okay. Are references written or done over the phone? Again, the Ministry of Justice have just clarified, phone is possible but generally they are taken in a written form but if there is a particular reason why they need to be taken by phone for example reasonable adjustment then that is absolutely no problem. Completely different question, probably one for perhaps Helen. What are the biggest opportunities and challenges for the LSB at the moment?
Helen Philips: Well, I hope I’ve given you a flavour of that not least of all in terms of looking at some of our key priorities and areas we’re focused on. So, you know, if we just think about ETI I think that is with large across a lot of our work at the moment. As indeed is the whole issue of, you know, gaps in consumer protection and gaps in provision. But I think that as we come up to, or have just passed, our tenth anniversary, being able to do that in such a way that the profession genuinely feel that we’re working with them and through and alongside them rather than holding attention between the consumer and the profession would be evidence of a maturity and an evolving of our way of working. So, you know, there’s not only the substance of what it is we need to do and the priorities that are informed by our strategy but also I think as every strategy refresh affords the opportunity to think about the tone and style and manner in which it is we go about our work.
Holly Perry: Thank you Helen. There is a question about the culture of the board, how you would describe the culture of the board. Flora touched on this. Is there anything you’d want to, maybe either add Flora or say in relation to that Helen?
Helen Philips: I’d like to amplify a point I think Flora made about, I have never once in all my time at the Legal Services Board, heard anybody say anything that their colleague had just said because they wanted to say it again themselves. It is probably the only board I’ve ever sat on where that is the case. And there is a such active listening and there is huge respect afforded to every member of the board by their board colleagues and by the executive. And it is a board room, most unusually, devoid of ego. Or perhaps everybody’s got such a big one elsewhere that they don’t feel the need to bring it into the LSB board room. But consequently there’s a real diligence and I don’t really know, it’s not, kind of like a library it’s just every member of the board is immaculately prepared, consistently immaculately prepared. So, consequently there’s no faffing or time wasting or having to ask executive colleagues, you know, to read their paper more or less out loud. Everybody’s absolutely ready to go, they have not only thought about it but they’ve thought about how it is they’re going to position it at the board in order that it will be most useful to executive colleagues and it will be most thought provoking for board members to build on. I mean, I don’t want to wax too lyrical, but it is a genuine delight. So, there’s a real culture-, and it was interesting listening to Flora talk earlier because she said if you don’t really not only get but want to do what it is that is at the heart of the purpose of the LSB it’s probably not for you. And I think that plays out very much in the board room. You wouldn’t get that quality of preparation just because people are diligent or because they don’t want to make a holy show of themselves at the board meeting, but because the agenda matters. So, yes.
Holly Perry: Thank you. I think I might see if Flora can help with the next one. So, this is about the time commitment. And somebody asks, could you provide guidance on the 30 days per year commitment? Is there additional commitment required at different points in the year and what is typically required each month?
Flora Page: Yes, that was actually one of my questions about this role and I think I probably am going to give a similar answer to the one I received but with a bit of personal experience thrown in. So, it’s not a fixed 30 day a year thing. You are not going to be asked to put 30 days in your diary at the beginning of the year. But you are going to need to put the board meetings into your diary and they are scheduled a long way in advance. So, that much of it is fixed. And I think I’ve heard some people describe that as, sort of, a regular drumbeat. You know, your board meetings are there as the, sort of, base of what you’re going to need to commit to the Legal Services Board. But around that it’s really very much for you to try to arrange things in a way that allows you to perform the various roles that you’ve been asked to do outside of the board meetings themselves and make sure you’re prepared for the board meetings. And something that we haven’t mentioned yet is that most of us are asked to be a board leader on a particular theme. So it might be that we’re board lead for one of the front-line regulators or we might board lead on one of the ongoing projects. And so that’s really what’s going to take up most of your time outside of the board meetings is the areas that you’re asked to be board lead on. But as I say, you fit that in around your existing commitments as best you can. And I for one certainly don’t sit there and wonder to myself, have I clocked up, you know, X number or days or hours to make sure that I’m either on my 30 days or above it or below it and I rather assume that nobody else is.
Holly Perry: Thank you Flora. I think that’s probably right. Absolutely. We have a question about conflicts of interest and how these are managed. For example, if somebody has a number of roles which may lead the LSB to consider their inherent conflicts of interest. I think I talked a little bit about conflicts of interest already and I think I would probably just add that these are obviously very, very specific to individuals portfolios really. And I would encourage anybody who wants to have a conversation about their current portfolio and any potential conflicts to get in touch with me and I’d be very happy to speak to you about that. Obviously things, once you’re in post might come up. And, again, we have a governance manual and rules of procedure and we follow those very, very carefully and declarations are made and recorded and managed in the way that you would imagine they should be. So, unless Helen wants to add anything to that?
Helen Philips: No.
Holly Perry: No. Okay. Somebody has asked a question about succession planning. What succession planning does the board have in place to ensure new appointees have time to bed in?
Helen Philips: Well, I like to think we’re fairly diligent around succession planning not least of all aided abetted by a very effective remuneration and nominations committee. Which indeed Holly supports. So, we try not to be caught on the hop, or to be doing recruitment at the last minute. We do a board effectiveness review every year and as part of that board effectiveness review we do an audit of skills and experience of board members so that we’re able to think in a, kind of, anticipatory way about the advice we will give to the Ministry of Justice about particular skills we would welcome onto the board. And of course we have a very good induction process. So, I mean, if the question is is there a handover, well obviously there isn’t a handover because this is a public appointment and that wouldn’t be appropriate and the board needs to be properly constituted at any moment in time. But in terms of anticipating needs of having a good dialogue with the MoJ about that, doing things in a timely fashion and having the induction in place, you know, on arrival, all of that works pretty well.
Holly Perry: Yes. I’d also probably add that the act allows the board to be between seven and ten members. And this vacancy is the tenth role on the board actually, so it’s operating at its maximum at the moment so that gives quite a bit of latitude, Helen, really doesn’t it? And you’ve already mentioned that there is quite a breadth already of other non-lay members on the board so that lack of handover as such I don’t think is necessarily problematic in that context either. Somebody says that this is likely to be their first significant appointment application, will that be a barrier to application? I think probably Flora has spoken about that. It was clearly Flora’s first significant appointment so certainly not a barrier. Somebody has asked what is the average age of the board and do you currently have members from ethnic minorities?
Helen Philips: Unfortunately we don’t have members from ethnic minorities and we’re very acutely aware of that. And we would think it a great success if we managed to broaden our diversity. I like to think we’re very diverse cognitively. But it would be good to be diverse in other ways too. We’re not bad on gender balance but we’re bereft in terms of ethnic diversity unless we’re going to include my accent in the mix, but more seriously that is our big challenge. There was a second part of that question.
Holly Perry: Yes, the age profile.
Helen Philips: The age. I don’t think we know what age we are to be honest with you. I don’t think you’re allowed to ask people that these days. We’re all, kind of, I don’t know, we all look a bit me and Flora.
Holly Perry: I would say from my experience of having, you know, served lots and lots of boards that ours does feel pretty mixed actually. We have a fuller range of age perhaps than other boards might have. So, I would certainly encourage anybody who’s at the younger end of the age profile not to think that that should be any kind of barrier whatsoever.
Helen Philips: No. And indeed we’d really welcome that because, you know, the more reflective we can be of those whose interests we are entrusted with the better the outcome we’re going to get. So, it would be good to get-, as you say, we’re probably not bad on age and we’re not bad on gender but more age, more younger people and more ethnic applicants we’d really welcome.
Holly Perry: Great. Well I’m just conscious of time now. We’ve covered a few of the questions that have come in live and all of the ones that came in in advance. So, I think we might want to perhaps conclude there and deal with all of the rest in the FAQs that we’ll publish alongside this recording. So, Helen, do you want to say anything by way of just closing?
Helen Philips: Just a huge thank to you Holly, well prepared as ever. And thanks Flora for the real flavour you’ve given about your motivation, how you found the process and indeed how you found being a member of the board. And I’m sure that will be enormously helpful to people who are considering this. And as I say, it’s been a pleasure to work hand in glove with the MoJ in, kind of, trying to broaden our reach in getting a good pool of candidates for this. But if this is not the right opportunity for you now because of time or circumstances or whatever please do bear us in mind for the future and those invitations to be in contact either with Holly or with our MoJ colleagues are genuinely intended, so, you know, don’t feel shy for getting in touch if you just want to explore this a bit further. A good recruitment process should be very mutual and reciprocal. It’s not all about the, you know, the person looking at the potential candidate needs to be the right fit. So, we’d really encourage you to explore that so that you feel comfortable because it’s the right thing to do. So, thank you for your time. You’ll probably like to be liberated onto your evening. And we hope that we’ll hear from some of you in the not too distant future. Thank you again.
Holly Perry: Thank you very much.
Flora Page: Thank you.