LSB policy objective: Regulators have appropriate frameworks for continuing assurance of professional competence throughout the careers of the people they regulate
Why have we committed to this policy objective?
This project goes to the heart of the LSB vision of legal services that everyone can access and trust. Consumers should be able to trust that legal professionals have the necessary skills, knowledge and attributes to provide good quality legal services and that they are kept up to date and relevant over time.
Recent reforms to education and training have largely focused on assuring day one competence but regulators should also ensure that legal professionals remain competent throughout their careers. While consumers can usually observe ‘service quality’ e.g. promptness, courtesy, administrative efficiency, often they are not able to assess the technical quality of work. This means they rely on there being checks in place to provide quality assurance.
Unlike other professional service sectors e.g. healthcare and teaching, there is no regular, formal assessment of legal professionals during their careers beyond requirements for continuing professional development. The Board has determined that we should consider whether this status quo is sustainable and if the current approach is effective in protecting consumers’ and the public interest.
How will we do this?
We have an open mind on whether a different approach to providing assurance of competence is needed in the regulated legal services market. We will be guided by the evidence we collect and our aim is to engage widely with a broad range of stakeholders in gathering and analysing evidence.
What have we done so far?
In January 2020 we launched a call for evidence to help us understand current approaches to assuring competence and gain clarity on whether there are any gaps in the system or areas of concern that need to be addressed. We had extensive discussions with stakeholders across and outside the legal services sector and received 31 formal submissions by July 2020, in addition to other datasets and research shared with us or sourced through LSB desk research.
We published our summary of evidence and identification of emerging themes in February 2021.
We are now awaiting the outputs of two research projects we commissioned to support our evidence gathering. This includes:
- work with the LSB Public Panel to test some of the findings from the call for evidence with consumers; and
- an independent report into the approaches to ongoing competence assurance adopted in other legal jurisdictions that is being prepared by Hook Tangaza following a competitive tender.
Engage with us
Throughout this project, we expect to engage widely with a range of stakeholders and are grateful for those who have engaged with us so far. We will look to hear from and be informed by as many views as possible. Below we provide notes from recent events:
- legal sector professionals (Newcastle, October 2019)
- regulatory bodies and approved regulators (London, January 2020). The presentation from the event is also available
- presentation to the City of London Law Society summer workshop (July 2020) providing an overview of our work so far
- presentation to the International Legal Regulators Conference (October 2020) on our evidence base.
If you would like to speak to us about this project at any time, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the project team.