Legal regulators too slow in getting a grip on performance

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has published its second progress report on the performance of the regulatory bodies in meeting the regulatory performance framework outcomes. There are clear signs of progress on the range of actions agreed in the assessments in January and June 2019, but generally the pace of delivery is slow and governance over regulatory performance must improve. Most of the unmet outcomes are now 12 months old.

Five outcomes have been downgraded to not met – action required and a new one added. The disappointing downgrading of ratings reflects a lack of tangible progress on the actions and timings agreed by regulatory bodies.

The LSB has taken the unusual step of rating an outcome as requiring immediate action and this reflects the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) decision to withdraw its Legal Choices funding.

Cilex Reg and IPReg have met all the outcomes under the Well-led standard.

The LSB remains concerned about the degree to which each regulatory body has fully recognised the regulatory performance framework and is monitoring its own performance.

Other highlights from the report are:

  • IPReg has become the first regulatory body to complete its outstanding actions and meet all 26 outcomes.
  • Nine outcomes have been completed and are now rated as met.
  • 13 outcomes remain unchanged as not met – action being taken.
  • Four new outcomes have been added as not met – action being taken to reflect poor quality applications for changes to regulatory arrangements.

For the six lowest rated outcomes, regulatory bodies must provide the LSB with a report by 31 January 2020 setting out their plans to address the actions required to remedy the performance issues.

Matthew Hill, Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board, said:

“We’ve seen some welcome improvement but in some key areas, particularly leadership, progress remains too slow. We’ll be focusing closely on this next year to try to inject some pace.”

Notes to editor

  1. The regulatory performance report is available on the LSB’s website.
  2. Action plans agreed with regulatory bodies in January 2019 are available on the LSB’s website.
  3. The bodies have been assessed against 26 outcomes in the LSB’s performance framework after agreeing individual action plans in January 2019. The outcomes cover five standards: regulatory approach, authorisation, supervision, enforcement, and well-led: governance and leadership.
  4. For each outcome, the organisations are scored as either met, not met – action being taken or not met – action required.
  5. The Legal Services Board’s regulatory performance framework was introduced in December 2017. In January 2019, the LSB published a report following a transitional review of the performance of each regulatory body along with individual action plans for them. In August 2019, the LSB published updated performance assessments and action plans for each regulatory body.
  6. Each body regulates a different set of regulated practitioners, have different numbers of practitioners and carry out their responsibilities in different way. Nevertheless, each body carries out the same role under the Legal Services Act 2007 and that is the focus for the LSB.
  7. The Legal Services Act 2007 (the Act) created the LSB as a new regulator with responsibility for overseeing the regulation of legal services in England and Wales. The new regulatory regime became active on 1 January 2010.
  8. The LSB oversees ten approved regulators, which in turn regulate individual legal practitioners. The approved regulators, designated under Part 1 of Schedule 4 of the 2007 Act, are the Law Society, the Bar Council, the Master of the Faculties, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys, the Association of Costs Lawyers, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. In addition, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland is an approved regulator for probate activities only but does not currently authorise anyone to offer this service.
  9. As of 1 April 2018, the legal profession in England and Wales comprised 146,600 solicitors, 16,600 barristers, 7,600 chartered legal executives and 6,000 other individuals operating in other areas of the legal profession such as conveyancing (figures rounded to the closest hundred). The UK legal sector turnover was £33 billion per annum (2017) which is up 19% in cash terms since 2012.

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