Some of the frontline regulators have hit back at the Legal Services Board’s (LSB) assessment of their performance.
A detailed report on the “smaller” regulators, issued by the LSB last week, found a wide range of competence, both across the different regulators and within each of them individually.
Alan Kershaw, chairman of ILEX Professional Standards (IPS), responded: “As a regulator of individuals, CILEx – through IPS – continues to build on its expertise and professionalism in ensuring its members act in the best interest of those they represent.
“The LSB’s Developing regulatory standards report acknowledges that but fails to give proper weight to it in making its judgements. As a result, their comments are coloured by their expectations of where IPS should be as a regulator of entities, which it has not been in the past, and the judgements consequently are misleading in a number of cases.
“What we have found helpful from this report though is confirmation that the work we have been undertaking in developing applications and our capacity to become an entity regulator are going in the right direction to meet the requirements of the LSB. We now have clear objectives and action points to progress, some of which the report notes work has already started on.”
A Costs Lawyer Standards Board spokeswoman said: “The CLSB agrees with some of the comments the report makes, in particular the need to understand better who we regulate. To this end the CLSB will continue to build on its newly established data. The CLSB thanks the LSB for acknowledging the considerable work undertaken to establish the CLSB and develop the comprehensive set of policies and procedures that it now has in place.
“The CLSB is, however, disappointed that despite meeting with and making written submissions to the LSB on factual inaccuracies and what it considers unfounded statements, this has not been fully reflected in the final report. In addition, the CLSB asked the LSB to provide them with their evidence to support various general and sweeping statements, this has still to be forthcoming.”
The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) was praised for providing, along with the Intellectual Property Regulation Board, the highest-quality submission. Chairman Anna Bradley said: “We found the self-assessment process a useful tool to take stock of our performance, involving all our staff and council members. Naturally we are pleased that the LSB agrees with our findings and action plans and applauds the process we adopted in completing the self-assessment.
“We have already made progress on implementing those plans but we have more work to do to further embed our outcomes-focussed regulatory approach and to undertake consumer research to see if that approach is sufficiently targeted.”
The Intellectual Property Regulation Board did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and CLC have given a low-key response to an LSB report analysing the risks that emerge in conveyancing, particularly around mortgage fraud. Among its recommendations was that the regulators should consider the need for client accounts.
Helen Venn, SRA supervision manager, said: “The LSB’s comments are in line with the approach we suggested in September. Whilst the majority of solicitors carry out their duties involving client money with the integrity expected, unfortunately there’s a small percentage which doesn’t and they present a great risk to the public.
“The amounts involved in buying a house are significant and so the effects of a solicitor making off with mortgage funds are huge. That’s why we suggested in our conveyancing strategy review looking at the need for solicitors to hold client money. We will be looking at the matter in more detail in the near future.”
A CLC spokesman said: “The incidence of fraud amongst licensed conveyancers is low compared to non-CLC regulated practitioners. We are confident that our regulatory framework, combined with a rigorous approach to inspection and enforcement means that we are able to give a high level of reassurance to consumers. We do intend to review our financial protection arrangements to ensure that they continue to be appropriate and proportionate in relation to risk.”