The Legal Services Board (LSB) is to reduce its cost to the profession to the lowest level since the oversight regulator was established in 2009.
Its draft business plan for 2017/18, published yesterday for consultation, anticipated a £150,000 reduction on the current year’s budget to £3.85m.
The figure has fallen steadily from the £4.93m levied on the profession in each of its first two years.
Combined with the larger number of practitioners since then, it means that the cost per lawyer will drop to £19, having been £34 at the start.
The plan said: “We intend to reduce our budget for the next two years as well, maximising the value of our limited resources, although ensuring we retain sufficient resource to fulfil our statutory functions and remit. This is a challenging target, which may require a refocus of some activities from 2018/19.”
The draft business plan includes the LSB’s ambition to explore the reasons underlying the “slow pace of change” on progression in the profession of women and those from minority ethnic communities – to senior roles such as partnerships, the judiciary and QC – and whether there is a role for regulators in helping to address the problem.
There will also be an ‘end to end’ review of the disciplinary processes of the larger regulators.
“In our last regulatory standards report, we noted that timeliness and transparency were two areas where there was scope for improvement. We also identified issues with quality of decision making, and the consistency of sanctioning powers and appeals processes,” the LSB said.
One of the major issues in disciplinary work is whether the criminal or civil burden of proof should be applied – the High Court said last month that it was to time to consider using the civil standard in the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
The plan anticipates that the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives will make an application seeking to become a regulator of alternative business structures.
LSB chairman Sir Michael Pitt said its proposed work contributed towards the board’s three strategic objectives – breaking down regulatory barriers to competition, growth and innovation, enabling the need for legal services to be met more effectively, and ensuring that regulators and the Legal Ombudsman are operating effectively.
He added: “They also have another element of common purpose, which is to inspire greater public trust and adherence to professional standards, elements that underpin a successful legal sector.”