Enforcement review

Reviewing delivery of enforcement activities

An impartial and rigorous disciplinary procedure is vital to sustaining public trust in the legal profession and the maintenance of professional standards. Our regulatory performance framework sets out the outcomes we expect under our enforcement standard.

We expect the legal services regulatory bodies to have:

  1. accessible and clear enforcement processes which are – consistent, independent, risk and evidence based; and focused on consumer protection, maintaining professional principles and protecting the public interest
  2. procedures in place to review and prioritise complaints and cases to ensure that processes are both efficient and timely
  3. enforcement decision making procedures which are transparent and ensure that all of the parties involved, as well as any others affected by the case, are kept up to date on progress and the outcome of investigations.

Why we looked into this area

In our July 2017 regulatory standards progress reports we noted that there was scope for improvement in the timeliness and transparency of the legal services regulators enforcement activities. We also identified issues with the quality of decision making, and the consistency of sanctioning powers and appeals processes.

What we have done

In 2018 we assessed all of the legal services regulatory bodies against our regulatory performance enforcement standard with our findings published in the report on our transitional assessment review.

We also completed an end to end review of the BSB and the SRA’s enforcement processes. The findings of this review are set out in our Enforcement in legal services regulation report, which also articulates the LSB’s future strategic priorities on regulatory enforcement. Our future strategic priorities are:

  1. Timeliness of enforcement processes, including transparency of timeliness information
  2. Effective and consistent use of interim sanctions
  3. Assurance of the quality of enforcement decisions by regulatory bodies

Enforcement process charts for each of the legal services regulatory bodies are available here.

Future approaches to enforcement oversight

In 2019 we engaged with regulatory bodies in other sectors to identify any developments in their approaches to enforcement oversight that we could learn from.

As a result of this work, in 2020/21 the LSB will require each regulatory body to confirm that it has effective and up-to-date quality assurance procedures for their enforcement practices and that these are followed. We will also develop an audit review process for the review of regulatory body enforcement practices.

More information about this project can be found here.