September Chair’s Blog

Our first meeting after the summer break focused on the development of our new strategy for the legal services sector.

Photo of Dr Helen Phillips
Dr Helen Phillips

We began by discussing progress made to increase transparency in the legal services. We were joined by senior colleagues from the Competition and Market Authority (CMA). They outlined the three broad themes of their original market study 2016 report, which were competition, consumer protection and regulation and which found that competition for individual consumers and small businesses was not working well. The CMA recently started a three-month review of the progress on the recommendations they made in 2016. It will examine if there are any further measures which could drive competition and engage consumers. We have been working very closely with the CMA as it has been shaping the review and the timing coincides with our own work on a statutory policy statement on consumer transparency.

The Board noted that although there has been a significant increase in transparency around prices, there still has not been a great deal of change in consumer behaviour, most notably, shopping around. The recently published Prices Transparency Research which was commissioned jointly by the LSB and the CMA, found that there is large regional variation when it comes to cost. Also, that better information for consumers on the quality of providers may help stimulate greater price competition, so it is important that regulators find solutions to help consumers compare on quality as well as price. You can explore the variation in prices further on our interactive dashboard. The Board considered how quality is judged and assessed and what the best indicators might be. We also considered work that has been done in other sectors, such as healthcare, in regard to building a framework of quality indicators.

In 2016 the CMA made recommendations to the Ministry of Justice for regulatory reform of legal services and in this context we reflected on the recent  ‘Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation’  by Professor Stephen Mayson. We also discussed what changes could be made within the existing legislative framework and reflected on the end of the transition period for implementation of the Internal Governance Rules in July and the progress that has been made in terms of regulatory independence. We look forward to continuing to work with the CMA in these important areas.

The views and experiences of the public were front and centre in hearing from members of our Public Panel, a standing group of members of the public formed by the LSB and LSCP to help inform the development of our policy. A research report and video will be published next week describing the views of this group on priorities for the legal services sector.

The Board then dedicated time to strategy development. We have been working to create not just a corporate strategy for the LSB, but a strategy for the legal services sector. We want to consider the successes that have been made in the past decade since the LSB was established, as well as the challenges that the sector continues to face. The Board reflected on almost six months of stakeholder engagement comprised of forty bilateral meetings with stakeholders across the legal services sector and four evidence sessions that were themed on diversity, technology, and consumer protection. We are grateful to all those who have met with us to share evidence, views and insights which are informing the development of the strategy. We will be publishing a report on the state of the legal services sector in late Autumn which will comprise an evidence compendium and narrative volume. In early December we will then consult on a draft strategy for the legal services sector. We look forward to sharing it with you and working together to reshape legal services to better meet the needs of society.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 20 October.

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