Control over the appointment of the next chairman of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) was taken away from the Law Society yesterday after the Legal Services Board introduced new rules governing the process.
From now on, all appointments to the regulatory boards will be the responsibility of the regulatory arms of the approved regulators, rather than the representative arms.
With the Bar Council and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives already compliant with the LSB’s new internal governance rules (IGR), the move is clearly aimed at the Law Society. Later this year the recruitment process for the next chairman of the SRA will begin, with Charles Plant’s term coming to an end on 31 December.
The LSB has not shifted the position set out in its February consultation. It received only seven responses, of which three – from the Law Society, solicitor Peter Adams and the Costs Lawyer Standards Board – opposed the changes.
Under the new IGR, the regulatory bodies will be responsible for designing the competency requirements for their chair and board members, and for designing and managing the appointments and reappointments process. When it comes to appointing chairs, they are required to delegate the process and decisions to an appointment panel independently constituted in line with best practice.
The IGR envisage that the representative body will be “strongly” involved at all stages, while “a proper audit trail of the discussions, the points considered and the final decisions made should be maintained”.
However, the LSB has dropped the proposal that it would have to approve arrangements in advance, and decided not to specify how the membership of appointments panels should be composed.
The LSB response paper published yesterday said: “The board agreed that amending the IGRs to require this change provides a workable and proportionate route to increased independence in legal services.”
Talking specifically about the appointment of Mr Plant’s successor, the LSB said: “It is of concern that the Law Society council has insisted that it must actively approve the selection decision made by a properly constituted independent appointment panel, with a Law Society representative on it…
“It is also of concern that the Law Society council declined to establish transparent reappointment criteria in advance of appointments being made.”
The move follows on the heels of the LSB requiring that all the approved regulators have lay chairs.
LSB chairman David Edmonds, whose own term of office ended yesterday, said: “This further removes the representative bodies from involvement in regulatory activities. During the earlier consultation on lay chairs, it was suggested to us that the robustness of the appointments was a very important factor in securing independent boards.
“I am pleased that my last acts as chairman is to announce this change to help secure demonstrably independent and robust boards.”