Chair’s Blog – January Board Meeting

picture of Dr Helen Philips, Chair of LSB

Following each of our Board meetings, our chair Dr Helen Phillips provides an overview of some of the items discussed and key decisions taken. You can find full minutes on our website as well as more information about our Board members.

Strategy Development 2021-2024

The Board has kicked off the development work for our strategy from 2021 onwards. We’re pursuing this quite differently than we have in the past, in two key ways. First, we’re trying to take a view across the whole sector, so it’s less a strategy for the LSB and more a strategy for the legal services sector and the contribution that regulation can make. And second, we’re going to develop the agenda based on broad and deep engagement with a much wider range of voices than has previously been the case.
So, we’ll be meeting people for one-to-one discussions, organising evidence sessions and marshalling the available evidence to build what we hope will be consensus around the key issues to be tackled in the sector.

To inform the strategy we will publish later this year. “A state of the legal services sector” report, with supporting evidence, and you can expect to hear a lot from us and we hope, we from you, over the intervening period.

Practising certificate fee

We scrutinised proposals for the planned review of Practising Certificate Fees (PCF) and “permitted purposes”. The Board was clear that it was not necessarily seeking to reduce the funding available for regulation and other permitted purposes. Rather, it is looking to improve transparency – particularly for those paying the fee, but also in the public interest more widely – and to promote a better-quality debate about what regulation is for, its benefits and its costs.
We’re expecting to publish a consultation soon, and we’d be grateful for wide engagement.

Equality and Diversity

We have been monitoring regulatory performance in this area for some time and have built up a picture of activity across the sector. We think it’s time, however, to move up a gear. The three areas of good regulatory performance we intend to pursue are:

• that the regulatory body has an understanding of the composition (and therefore diversity) of their regulated community
• that the regulatory body understands the barriers to entry and progression within their regulated community, has a programme of activity to mitigate those barriers and measures in place to evaluate effectiveness
• that the regulatory body has measures in place to understand any differential impact on protected characteristics within their disciplinary/enforcement procedures.
In this next phase of monitoring we will be looking more closely at progression and giving the gender pay gap real attention. We acknowledged that it is easier to diagnose the problem than find solutions, but we want to move beyond collecting data, to achieving greater diversity at all levels of the profession.

Consumer and tech innovation

We also welcomed Rob Houghton and Graham Stanbridge from reallymoving and The Law Superstore. They gave a fascinating presentation on these businesses and how tech innovation is affording consumers more choice. We encouraged them to further consider vulnerable consumers in designing their platforms.

Internal governance rules (IGRs)

We approved a proposed consultation on embedding IGRs within our performance framework by connecting them to the “well led” standard. That would enable us to use regulatory performance assessments of a means of working out the extent to which the outcomes specified by the IGRs are being delivered. Again, we expect to launch this consultation shortly and we’ll of course be very grateful for views on what we are proposing.

Our next Board meeting is Wednesday 26 March.

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