The Covid-19 pandemic continues to have an unprecedented impact on everyone, including the businesses and institutions that support access to justice and underpin the rule of law.
At the LSB, we are mindful of the needs of both the profession and consumers, and will ensure that we are not placing unnecessary burdens on others at this time whilst ensuring that effective regulation of legal services in the public interest continues.
We have been in contact with all the legal services regulators throughout the pandemic. Our initial position was set out when our Chair also wrote to regulators on 6 April 2020.
One of our early actions in response to the pandemic was to proactively issue a fast track approvals mechanism for changes to regulatory arrangements that may become necessary as a result of Covid-19. This will remain active and available to regulatory bodies throughout the pandemic.
Our key priorities
In delivering our plans, we have adopted the following scheme of priorities, based on delivering our statutory obligations under the Legal Services Act:
- Statutory decisions, compliance with the Internal Governance Rules 2019 (IGR) and other core regulatory functions;
- Oversight of Office of Legal Complaints and Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal;
- Regulatory performance oversight of regulatory bodies, including concluding our current IGR consultation; and
- Our wider policy areas such as LSB strategy, ongoing competence, and technology, where we are taking a more measured approach to our external engagement.
Our response to Covid-19 summary of actions
We have published a Covid-19 data hub to monitor the impact the pandemic is having on legal services and access to justice. It aims to inform regulators and policy makers by indicating the impact on demand for legal services across different legal issues as well as the health of the legal services market in England and Wales.
The latest bulletin analysing the data was published on 9 February 2021 and can be found here. In addition we issued a press release on 25 March 2021 looking for the first time at impact on the supply side of legal services.
As we explain in our State of Legal Services 2020 report, the pandemic has created challenges for both the profession and people who need legal services. However, some parts of the sector have seen an increased demand for services, and the enforced changes to working practices have created opportunities to rethink how services are delivered in the longer-term. We hope regulators, legal services providers, policymakers and others will use the data collected through the dashboard to support our efforts to reshape legal services to better meet the needs of society.
Our Board has considered the LSB response to Covid-19 on several occasions with focus on the work the LSB is carrying out to support the recovery of the sector whilst ensuring the public continue to be protected by an effective system of regulation. Board papers focused on Covid-19 were discussed from April-October 2020 and a further paper will also be produced for April 2021. Details of LSB board meeting including board papers can be found here.