Mixed response to LSB’s plan for regulatory overhaul, with Falconer calling for focus on unmet legal need instead
Reactions from key legal services industry bodies to the Legal Services Board’s blueprint for radical form of legal regulation have ranged from enthusiastic welcome to anger at its timing, while the politician who introduced the Legal Services Act 2007 said tackling unmet legal need was more of a priority.
The Law Society has issued a damning critique of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s proposals for a streamlined code of conduct and – to a lesser extent – its planned overhaul of the accounts rules. The code of conduct proposals were misconceived, unnecessary, unclear, and would create a two-tier profession, it said.
The Legal Services Board has argued more strongly than ever that professional bodies must be fully separated from regulators. In a letter to the justice select committee, Sir Michael Pitt, chairman of the LSB, argued that there was scope under existing arrangements for them to “resist reforms”.
The Law Society and Council for Licensed Conveyancers have clashed plans by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to make it easier for law firms to switch regulator. The society warned that clients could be left without proper cover.
Litigants with limited funds should use direct access barristers to represent them in court rather than pay for McKenzie Friends, the Bar Council has argued. The Bar Council, along with the Law Society and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, supported the judiciary’s call for a ban on professional McKenzie Friends.
The Law Society has said it is making progress in its overhaul of governance, after its ruling council agreed that work should be done to “develop suggestions for change in more detail”. However, it is unclear exactly what council members have agreed.
The Legal Services Board has announced a change in its practising certificate fee rules, which will put the spotlight on spending by professional bodies such as the Law Society and Bar Council. Both professional bodies opposed the change.
Law Society spending on non-regulatory ‘permitted purposes’, such as law reform and practice support, surged by £6.3m in the four years between 2010 and 2014, research by the Legal Services Board has revealed. The research was part of the LSB’s investigation into the cost of legal services regulation.
More than one in five law firms have been targeted by scammers in the past year, Law Society research has revealed. Money was successfully stolen from client account in 8% of these cases. However the society’s annual indemnity survey found that average premiums paid by firms with up to 25 partners were down by 8%.
Alternative business structures (ABS) make up just 4% of all solicitors’ firms but contributed 11% of the profession’s turnover, research has revealed. The Law Society’s annual statistical report, found ABSs were spread broadly across the different turnover bands, with around 50 of them having income in excess of £10m.