Legal Services Board pushes back on claim it is overreaching

Kershaw: LSB focused on areas of greatest impact

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has firmly rebuffed suggestions that it is guilty of ‘overreach’ in doing more than just overseeing the performance of the frontline regulators.

The LSB said its activities for the coming year – set out in its newly approved 2023/24 business plan – were clearly within its statutory remit.

The oversight regulator published a report detailing the consultation on the plan, in which the Bar Council objected to some of the proposed activities, including work on technology and innovation and the misuse of non-disclosure agreements, which it said fell outside of the LSB’s statutory remit.

“It submitted that the LSB needs to focus on what in the Bar Council’s opinion is the LSB’s oversight functions under the Act,” the report recorded.

“It further submitted that ultimately the consumer would bear the costs of the levy which funds the LSB and therefore, the LSB needed to focus on what the Bar Council considered was essential to fulfilling its statutory functions like regulatory performance.”

CILEX also noted it was important for the LSB to be “sensitive to overreach”.

But the LSB said it was “confident that each activity in our business plan falls within the remit set by Parliament” in the Legal Services Act 2007.

Section 207 of the Act defined its ‘functions’ quite broadly as including the LSB’s powers and duties – these included the duty in section 3(2) to act in a way which was compatible with the regulatory objectives.

Section 7 of the Act provides that the LSB may do anything “calculated to facilitate, or incidental or conducive to, the carrying out of any of its functions”.

The report said: “Parliament has conferred on the LSB a broad range of functions (including powers and duties); and in doing so has recognised that the operation of those functions requires choices to be made by the board, although in practice we consult widely and thoroughly on those choices in line with the principles of best regulatory practice.

“These matters, amongst others have been tested over time in the courts.”

Among the LSB’s new projects for the coming year will be encouraging lawyers to embed client vulnerability into the design of their services.

Further, in response to the consultation feedback, the LSB has decided to re-allocate resources “to scope future work on the role of regulation in improving access to justice in the publicly funded justice system, including how regulation supports or inhibits the effective delivery of legal services”.

The LSB’s new chair, Alan Kershaw, officially took office on Saturday. He said: “This plan recognises the range of challenges and opportunities facing the sector and sets out our ambition to play our part in addressing those.

“It was developed following a public consultation, and we have sought to give priority to where the LSB and regulation can have the greatest impact.”

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