The Legal Services Board (LSB) has announced a programme of activity to push forward its vision for legal services that everyone can access and trust. The proposals are outlined in its draft business plan for 2020-21, which has been published as part of a public consultation.
The LSB oversees legal regulators in England and Wales and next year it will look at how regulators are funded when it completes its in-depth review of the rules and guidance on the Practising Certificate Fee (PCF).
The organisation will also review the processes it uses for statutory decisions, including its Rules for applications to alter regulatory arrangements. The LSB has previously written to a number of regulators to set out a concern about the poor standard of some rule change applications over the last twelve months. The review will consider how to achieve greater consistency in articulating the benefits any change seeks to effect.
Next year, the LSB will continue to monitor regulators’ performance against the new framework published in December 2017. It will use the framework to monitor compliance with the revised Internal Governance Rules published in July 2019 and refine its approach to regulatory performance to reflect lessons learned from the first full year of operation. We wish to be able to increasingly rely on the assurance processes the Boards of the regulators have in place to demonstrate good corporate governance.
The organisation will continue to make progress on the five-year policy objectives that it set last year on public legal education, ongoing competence and technology.
Central to the LSB’s plans is a culture of greater openness and transparency and this includes reviewing its own approach to board meetings. There will also be a step change in engagement with partners, stakeholders and the public.
The organisation will increase its research activities, including developing better mechanisms for tapping into public attitudes to legal services. One idea that will be explored is establishing a standing panel of users of legal services and members of the public that the LSB can listen to and consult as part of its policy development processes.
2020-21 will be the final year of the LSB’s current three-year corporate strategy and the planned programme of activity will put the organisation in a strong position as it begins to develop a new strategy for legal services regulation and works towards its first “state of the nation” analysis of the sector next summer.
Dr Helen Phillips, Chair of the Legal Services Board, said:
“Next year, we’ll continue to improve our approach to regulatory performance to make it more focused and effective to deliver legal services that truly put consumers first. Recognising the synergy between accessible legal services that users can trust and a strong and diverse legal profession.
“We will also talk to a wide range of people and organisations to help us shape our priorities in the longer term. By working in partnership with others, we’ll better mobilise effort to improve access to justice, redress for consumers when things go wrong and a legal profession that represents our diverse society. Central to this endeavour will be the publication of “The State of the Legal Services Sector” report and the underpinning evidence compendium which we intend should facilitate a consensus on priorities for action.”
The public consultation on the LSB’s draft Business Plan for 2020/21 runs from 13 December 2019 to 14 February 2020.
Notes to editor
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.