Today, the Legal Services Board (LSB) published its annual report and accounts for the year ended 31 March 2021.
The report describes the work completed and the LSB’s impact in delivering the third and final year of its 2018-21 Strategic Plan. The report also covers the work undertaken to produce a new strategy for the legal services sector.
During the year under review, the LSB committed to doing all it could to support regulators during the Covid-19 pandemic and ensure that they could make any changes needed to support their regulated communities.
The LSB published a flexible business plan and initiated a Covid-19 project to understand the pandemic’s impact on the sector and contribute to its recovery.
Key projects and activities during the year included:
- Publishing and regularly updating an interactive data hub with evidence on the impact of Covid-19 on the sector.
- Publishing the State of the Legal Services 2020 report and consumer-focused strategy for the sector, which accounted for the impact of Covid-19.
- Progressing the review of Ongoing competence – how legal regulators ensure that the legal professionals remain competent throughout their careers.
- Publishing prices research showing the significant regional variation in the price of legal advice across England and in Wales for what are fundamentally the same services. This informed the Competition and Market’s Authority’s review of progress in increasing competition in the legal services market and subsequent recommendations.
- Quality indicators – researching with the Public Panel the challenges people face when comparing and choosing legal services providers.
- Regulatory responses to technology – supporting the Lawtech Sandbox Pilot by participating in the Regulatory Response Unit and Launching a joint research project with Tech Nation to understand better how SMEs address their legal needs and access legal advice and support and how legal technology can better support
The LSB is publicly funded, although its costs are recovered from a statutory levy on the approved regulators. They, in turn, derive their funding from fees paid by the legal professions. The LSB continued to increase its focus on demonstrating value for money, and significant underspends have been eradicated for the second year.
The LSB’s income for 2020/21 was £3,905k. This was an increase of 2.9% on the prior year’s income figure (£3.796m). LSB income is made up of the levy billed to approved regulators in 2020/21 (£3.920m), adjusted for prior and current year underspends. If averaged out across all those authorised to undertake reserved legal activities, the levy would be £21.95 each.
According to Office for National Statistics figures, the legal profession saw its turnover rise to a record high of £4.08bn in March 2021. This represented a 20.3% increase on March 2020 when turnover was £3.39bn. But the impact of the pandemic has been variable across different parts of the profession. Conveyancing firms, for example, continue to see a demand for services, while publicly funded areas of law have faced significant difficulties.
Matthew Hill, Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board, said:
“The work undertaken throughout 2020/21 has put the organisation in a solid position to continue supporting recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and work with the sector to reshape legal services to better meet society’s needs.
“We have continued to manage our limited resources prudently and transparently to deliver the greatest impact for the public and the profession in pursuit of the regulatory objectives. Over the next year and beyond, we will work collaboratively with regulators on their performance, improving consumers’ access to services and redress, and encouraging an innovative and diverse legal services market.”
Dr Helen Phillips, Chair of the LSB, said:
“The unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has taken a terrible toll on society and significantly impacted the people and small businesses who need legal services. The impact on the legal profession itself has been variable across different practice areas. For example, conveyancing and the commercial sector appear broadly buoyant, while other parts, such as publicly funded areas of the law, have faced challenges.
“The work we did in 2020/21 to engage with a broad range of stakeholders and understand the challenges facing the sector means we are well-positioned to play our full role in improving access to justice, and to encourage growth and innovation that meets consumers’ needs while commanding public confidence. We can’t achieve this alone, though, so we will collaborate with others to drive positive change for people who need legal services and deliver on our objective to encourage an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession.”
Here is the summary of the Annual Report (PDF).