Today, the Legal Services Board (LSB) published the findings of its review of the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury under the Well-led standard of the LSB’s regulatory performance assessment framework. The Master of the Faculties, acting through the Faculty Office, regulates the notarial profession in England and Wales.
The LSB found that the Faculty Office follows governance procedures that would be expected from a Well-led regulator. However, the Faculty Office has little documentation supporting its governance arrangements, which rely heavily on customs developed over many years. The Faculty Office’s decisions and decision-making processes were also not always as transparent as they should be. This meant that the Faculty Office’s processes for managing its recruitment, its finances and preventing conflicts of interest were not sufficiently documented or transparent.
The LSB also found that while the Faculty Office has well-established processes for gathering information about notaries, it had limited insight about the issues notaries and consumers of notarial services faced.
The LSB has written to the other legal regulators to share learning from the report that will help improve the effectiveness of regulation in the legal services sector.
The Faculty Office cooperated fully with the LSB throughout the review and has accepted the oversight regulator’s conclusions. The Faculty Office has confirmed its commitment to improving its performance by developing an action plan and has already taken some steps to address the findings and meet the Well-led standard.
Dr Helen Phillips, Chair of the LSB, said:
“Open and transparent decision-making that takes account of the issues facing legal services providers and consumers of legal services is central to building public trust and confidence in legal services among the public.
“The Faculty Office worked constructively with us throughout the review process, and they have already started addressing the issues we identified. We will monitor their action plan to ensure they continue making positive progress, supporting independent regulation in the public interest.”
Matthew Hill, Chief Executive of the LSB, said:
“We initiated this review because we had concerns about the transparency of decision making by the Faculty Office. We found shortcomings in the regulator’s governance procedures and no evidence of how it took the regulatory objectives into account when making decisions.
“The Faculty Office responded positively to the findings and immediately sought to begin addressing the issues. We appreciate how cooperative the regulator has been.
“Our report contains learning that we think can help us all improve the effectiveness of regulation in the legal services sector. We encourage the other legal service regulators to consider their decision-making processes in the light of our findings. We expect them all to be proactively and transparently putting the regulatory objectives at the heart of their work.”
- LSB review of the Faculty Office under the Well-led standard (PDF)
- Faculty Office action plan (PDF)
- Faculty Office regulatory performance assessment September 2021 (PDF)
About the review
- Under the Legal Services Act, all legal regulators have the same responsibilities and are assessed by the LSB against five standards under the regulatory performance assessment framework. Under the Well-led standard of the performance framework, regulators must show the leadership, capability and capacity, and appropriate corporate governance to manage their organisation effectively. They must also demonstrate a culture that encourages and uses learning to improve performance and promotes a transparent and consumer-focused environment.
- In March 2020, the LSB determined that it was necessary to review the Faculty Office’s performance under the Well-led standard due to ongoing concerns about the transparency of information published, the Faculty Office’s approach to risk management, and the Faculty Office’s stakeholder engagement programme informed its regulatory work. In September 2020, in the Practising Certificate Fee (PCF) decision, the LSB noted its concerns about how the Faculty Office was managing its finances and resources and that this would also be considered further in this review.