New recruits move BSB closer to lay majority

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By Legal Futures

18 January 2011

Deech: over 80 applicants for board roles

The Bar Standards Board has fulfilled its side of the deal struck with the Legal Services Board over its lay/ professional composition, with four new members taking office this month.

There is now an equal number of lay and professional members ahead of a lay majority being in place after further changes next year. Later this year the Solicitors Regulation Authority will also move to parity before a lay majority is appointed for 2013.

The changes are part of the Legal Services Board’s requirement that regulators have lay majorities, but the board backed down from requiring the BSB and SRA to swap their professional majorities for lay majorities immediately.

The BSB has replaced one of the retiring barrister members with a lay member to introduce parity. The four new members are: Sarah Clarke, an in-house counsel at the Financial Services Authority; Dr Malcolm Cohen, an experienced chief executive in the international manufacturing industry and a magistrate for 19 years; Simon Lofthouse QC of Atkin Chambers; and Sharmila Nebhrjani, who is executive director of finance and contracting at NHS East Sussex Primary Care Trust.

BSB chairman Baroness Ruth Deech said they had received over 80 applications. “The new board members share a wealth of experience which will assist us to manage the ever-increasing demands of professional regulation.”

Meanwhile, ILEX Professional Standards (IPS) – the regulator of legal executives – has appointed Patrick Bligh-Cheesman to replace Nick Smedley, who resigned from the board to pursue consultancy work for the Law Society because of a conflict of interest.

Mr Bligh-Cheesman had a career in local government, with the last 10 years as head of trading standards at one of the larger authorities. He will hold the consumer and stakeholder portfolio. He is a lay member of the Ombudsman Service Property Board and a trustee director of his local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Ian Watson, chief executive of IPS, said: “The Legal Services Act puts consumers at the heart of legal services. As an organisation that prides itself on serving its consumers, we need to know more about their knowledge of legal executives and what they expect of them. Patrick’s appointment and experience will go a long way to ensuring IPS and ILEX meet their responsibilities under the Act, and that ILEX members meet and exceed consumers’ expectations.”

ILEX was the only body that set up a regulatory arm with a lay majority from the start. However, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys are looking to introduce a lay majority on each of their regulatory boards – which work together as the Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg) – by recruiting an extra lay member who will sit on both.

To ensure this is done as soon as practical, the Legal Services Board has accepted that the appointment can be made after a curtailed advertising and selection process. The closing date is 24 January.

The pair are also looking to recruit a professional member for each of their regulatory boards to replace retiring members. The closing date is 31 January.

See the IPReg website for more details.

Finally, David Hobart is leaving the Bar Council, where he has been chief executive for seven years, to take up the new post of chief executive of the City of London Law Society.

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