Legal Services Board announces enhanced independence for legal regulators

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has today confirmed that the requirements for all nine approved regulators to separate their regulatory and representative functions have been achieved.

Consumers expect the regulation of legal services to be independent from the profession and today’s announcement means consumers and regulated lawyers (e.g. solicitors, barristers, legal executives, patent and trademark attorneys, costs lawyers and notaries) can have greater trust and confidence in the independence of the decisions made by regulators.

The requirements for separation between regulatory and representative bodies were outlined in the LSB’s revised internal governance rules (IGRs) in July 2019. Although they came into effect immediately, approved regulators and regulatory bodies were given a maximum of 12 months to comply.  The transition period ended on 23 July 2020.

As a result of the new IGRs, ICAEW has separated its legal services regulatory and representative functions formally for the first time. This was not required before the new IGRs came into effect.

In addition, the Law Society will establish the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) as a separate company within Law Society Group. This means that the SRA will join other regulatory bodies that are distinct legal entities.

The LSB’s focus will now turn to ongoing monitoring of compliance with the IGRs, which will be undertaken through the regulatory performance assessment framework.

The Legal Services Board’s Chair Dr Helen Phillips said:

“Enhancing regulatory independence has been a long-term strategic priority for the LSB and I am pleased the regulators are now able to confirm they have the appropriate separations in place between regulatory and representative functions. This is a significant achievement and means consumers can have increased certainty that decisions made by regulators are independent.

“The LSB is committed to reshaping legal services to better meet the needs of society, and independent regulation helps to give confidence that legal services work in the public interest and support the rule of law.

“We are grateful to the regulators for their constructive engagement throughout this process and for ensuring that all of the required arrangements were in place within the transition period. Through this process, we have seen significant changes being made that will really enhance the independence of our legal services regulators.”

Over the last 3 months, the LSB has received and approved several applications from approved regulators and regulatory bodies to amend regulatory arrangements to comply with the IGRs. By the deadline of 23 July, the LSB had received certificates of compliance from all approved regulators and regulatory bodies, confirming that they have taken the necessary steps to comply with the rules.

This marks the conclusion of the LSB’s review of the IGRs, which began in 2017.

See the Legal Services Board’s website for more information, including the certificates of compliance.

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