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Legal Services Board sets 10-year goal to correct market problems

Phillips: Significant levels unmet legal need

Changes to the regulation of lawyers – including altering the list of reserved legal activities and extending protections for consumers using unregulated providers – are part of Legal Services Board’s (LSB) vision for the next 10 years.

It said there may also be scope for regulators to move away from ‘all or nothing’ approaches and pursue activity-based regulation which was more closely tailored to risk.

The 10-year strategy [1] and accompanying 2021/22 business plan [2] have changed little following a consultation [3], despite criticism [4] from the likes of the Law Society and Bar Council.

The oversight regulator set a vision for 2031 that would see unmet legal need “greatly reduced” and the outcomes and experience of legal services “much more equal across the population”.

Legal professionals would be “as diverse as the communities they serve” at all levels and there would be “a genuinely inclusive culture where the diversity of thought that people with varied life experiences and circumstances bring is championed”.

It also hoped to see legal services “routinely delivered using trusted technology”.

The LSB identified reshaping legal services to better meet the needs of society as “the golden thread” running through its strategy for the sector, with three overall goals [5] of achieving fairer outcomes, stronger confidence and better services and nine challenges flowing from them.

Only “major reform” could fully address issues with the scope of regulation, the independence of regulation and the institutional landscape, the strategy said, which was ultimately for government.

“In the absence of legislative reform, this strategy for the sector sets out opportunities for making incremental changes.”

These included a statutory review of the reserved legal activities, but the LSB has had to put this on hold.

It said the expanded coordination and leadership role that the Competition and Markets Authority has asked it to take following its report last year [6] required a higher level of resources than the LSB had anticipated when it consulted.

As a result, certain priorities identified in the strategy, such as the reserved activities review, a review of professional indemnity insurance, and work on ‘simple’ legal products, have been deferred until resources permit – the latter would be a small range of easy to understand and easy to compare standardised products that would meet people’s basic needs.

The LSB budget for 2021/22 will rise by £175,000 (4.4%) to £4.1m.

Chair Dr Helen Phillips said: “While there have been many achievements over the last 10 years of independent regulation, there continue to be significant levels unmet legal need.

“We must seize this moment to drive forward a strategy that promotes the public interest, supports competition and growth, and encourages diversity and inclusion. The LSB cannot do this alone – everyone in the sector must work together to pursue our shared interests.”