News in brief: Solicitors in hot water over dodgy investment schemes, disqualified barrister disbarred and much more
We round up news stories from the week we haven’t had room to cover, including more sanctions for solicitors caught up in dodgy investment schemes, a new chair for the Legal Services Consumer Panel, a barrister being disbarred over payments to himself, advice on price transparency, and much more.
There are “clear benefits” in the Legal Services Consumer Panel remaining part of the Legal Services Board, the panel’s chair has argued. Elisabeth Davies said the status quo allowed the LSB and the approved regulators to “access consumer insight on tap”.
Black and minority ethnic (BME) consumers of legal services are getting a “raw deal” when choosing and using legal services, according to the Legal Services Consumer Panel, after its research showed levels of trust, loyalty and satisfaction lower among BME groups that white British consumers.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel and the Legal Ombudsman are the latest organisations to come out against the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s proposal that practising solicitors be allowed to handle unreserved legal work for the public from unregulated firms.
Family law specialists should be required to work under fixed fees, the Legal Services Consumer Panel has suggested as it ramped up its call for regulatory intervention to improve transparency in the market. It said family law was one area where it advised that regulators “should now consider mandating fixed fees”.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel said last week that it was “not blind to the challenges of increased price transparency”, but insisted that making lawyers publish “average” prices could be the catalyst for making consumers ask more questions about cost.
Nearly half of consumer legal services are provided on a fixed-fee basis, new research has found – but it said consumers are still being hampered by a lack of information to help them choose the right lawyer, leading to “lower levels of satisfaction and trust in legal services”.
The slow pace of change in the legal services market means “regulatory intervention” is needed to force firms to publish their average prices even though it is not a perfect solution, the voice of legal consumers has said. The Legal Services Consumer Panel said this could also counter negative perceptions of lawyers.
Friday’s Competition and Markets Authority report on legal services has reignited the debate over independent regulation, with both the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board welcoming the call for separation from their representative bodies.
Making law firms publish details of complaints and average prices on their websites will significantly improve the legal market for clients, the Legal Services Consumer Panel has argued. Its newly published annual report renews the panel’s push for open data, even though the Legal Services Board recently cast doubt on some of its key recommendations.