SRA and BSB investigate virtual consumer network to improve engagement with public

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By Legal Futures

21 September 2010

Online engagement: new ways for regulators to talk to consumers

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and Bar Standards Board (BSB) are in discussions about creating a joint online consumer network involving the general public, Legal Futures has learned.

The move – which is still in its infancy – follows pressure from the Legal Services Consumer Panel for the frontline regulators to improve their engagement with consumers. There might also be a separate professional network.

A BSB spokeswoman explained that they had recently attended a workshop by the Council for Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) on its consumer network, and the BSB and SRA are exploring how it might work for legal services. She emphasised that the talks are in extremely early stages and may not progress any further.

The CHRE’s public stakeholder network is a free, virtual network with a membership of patients and the public from across the UK. It is open to all to join. Benefits to members include a bimonthly online newsletter, invitations to get involved in the council’s public consultations and discussions, invitations to its meetings with the public and e-mail alerts.

The CHRE says that since launching its network in March 2009, members have helped it to understand patient experiences of their care, focus its work “on things that matter to patients and the public”, and improve its website and publications.

BSB chief executive Mandie Lavin told last week’s BSB meeting that the possibility of having a separate “professional users” panel is also being investigated. The CHRE has a separate professional network.

The Legal Services Consumer Panel recently held a workshop at which the profession’s regulators were urged to put consumer engagement at their heart of their strategies after finding their efforts to date have been limited (see story).

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