Sir Michael Pitt, the new chairman of the Legal Services Board, has said he took the job to “help change the legal services market”.
Sir Michael said the past year had shown that the LSB was “serious” about establishing independent regulation and, echoing the words of his predecessor David Edmonds, said it would “fight any attempt to turn back the clock”.
Commenting on the launch of the oversight regulator’s annual report yesterday, Sir Michael said “more change is needed” to deliver a better legal services market and better access to justice.
“For example change is needed in the mechanisms for market entry, regulation needs to be further detached from the influence of the provider towards the consumer, and simplification at every level needs to be delivered. I intend that the LSB should continue to pursue these goals.
“As the market changes in the years to come, there may indeed come a time when the LSB will have fulfilled its role and the frontline regulators are demonstrating significant simplification and improved performance, removing the need for the current structure of oversight.
“Until that time comes, we will do as the Lord Chancellor has suggested recently, and will continue to work towards that point when the number of regulators regulating the legal services market can fall significantly.”
The Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, said earlier this month that the LSB should work towards its own abolition.
In his final introduction to the report as chairman, Mr Edmonds, who left at the end of April, said he was proud of what was achieved during his six years at the LSB. “I think we have achieved far more than anyone expected given the labyrinthine nature of the 2007 [Legal Services] Act,” he said.
Looking ahead, the LSB said in the report that there was a need to “avoid prescription and over-intervention in order to reduce costs and burdens and to foster innovation”.
However, the report said there was also a need to “address both the perception and reality of excessive burdens on small firms”.
The oversight regulator said the financial challenges for firms meant there was a need for a regulatory environment which encouraged “flexibility and adaptability” to ensure consumers were properly protected.
It advised frontline regulators to be “ever more sensitive” to the need to work together when integrated services were provided in ways “which may cause regulatory overlap or even conflict” between requirements on entities and individuals or “between different regulatory regimes”.