A government bid to slash unnecessary red tape around the regulation of legal services goes live today.
As first revealed by Legal Futures in February, the Red Tape Challenge (RTC) – a government-wide initiative to cut the 21,000 regulations currently in force in the UK – is spotlighting legal services for the next five weeks.
More than 150 regulations are under scrutiny. Regulation is a specific sub-theme, with the others being distress for rent and bailiff action, sentencing and rehabilitation, criminal justice, data protection, and claims management. Legal aid and civil costs are off the agenda because of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
The RTC is a public consultation exercise through a website launched by Prime Minister David Cameron last year. The government has agreed to scrap or improve over 50% of the 1,500 regulations reviewed so far.
Once it has gathered in views on a particular topic, a ministerial ‘star chamber’ has three months to decide which regulations it wants to keep and why, with a default presumption that burdensome regulations will go. “If ministers want to keep them, they have to make a very good case for them to stay,” the RTC website says.
Any proposals are then ‘sanity tested’ by a panel of representatives from affected areas.
Among those regulations under the microscope are the Legal Services Act 2007 (Levy) Rules 2010, the Solicitors (Non-Contentious Business) Remuneration Order 2009 and the Licensed Conveyancers (Compensation for Inadequate Professional Services) Order 2009.
Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly said: “By reducing red tape as part of this initiative across government, we are helping businesses to compete, create jobs and unleash a private sector-led recovery.
“The Ministry of Justice is bringing together industry, professional bodies, regulators, policy makers, lawyers and analysts to work out solutions and a different approach to how regulation has been managed in the past.”
SRA chief executive Antony Townsend said: “If there are regulatory requirements that could genuinely be removed, then we want to hear about it. We’ll give proper consideration to whatever’s on the table and we look forward to seeing what kind of debates develop.”
Three ‘sector champions’ have been named to provide expert knowledge on the issues faced in their specialist business areas. They are Law Society deputy vice-president Nick Fluck, Legal Services Consumer Panel chair Elisabeth Davies, and Zachary Bredemear, a barrister who sits on the legal services committee of the Bar Council.
Mr Fluck said: “We welcome this initiative, and although regulation is necessary, I hope legal professionals will get involved and help reduce the number of badly thought out, overly complex or obsolete regulations on government books. A range of views will help identify obstacles and highlight the confusion red tape poses to their work, and help eliminate avoidable burdens.”