The Legal Services Board (LSB) has hit back at the “misguided” criticism of its role, saying that experience has proven the need for its “forceful facilitation”.
In the LSB’s response to the Ministry of Justice’s triennial review of its role, which has prompted severe criticism from some of those it oversees, the board said it was still working to determine how far the delivery of the regulatory objectives in the Legal Services Act can be left to the frontline regulators alone.
“We have certainly come a long way but few of the approved regulators have a tradition of the kind of approach to regulation that the Act anticipates and requires.”
Many of the “burdens” that the regulators complain the LSB places on them “are designed to increase the professional standard of their regulation and hence lead to a reduction in the burden placed on the sector itself”, it added.
The LSB said it was “misguided” to view its approach to approving regulatory changes as micro-managing, a frequent criticism from the frontline regulators. Saying it often finds weaknesses in applications for changes, it explained: “We want to see regulation that is fit for purpose and to disregard our statutory obligations when performing our functions to facilitate changes to regulatory arrangements at odds with the Act would both be remiss and, in the medium-term, increase the risk of more extensive and expensive intervention, potentially even necessitating legislative reform.”
However, the LSB acknowledged that as the regulators become more familiar with the regime and improve their performance, “it is not improbable that in time the need for a statutory check and balance on such changes is no longer required”.
The LSB strongly defended its proactive approach to issues such as undertaking research, encouraging the Legal Education and Training Review, pushing regulatory action over diversity, and intervening on the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates.
It described the latter as “an object demonstration of the difficulties faced by the frontline regulators in seeking to cooperate across professional boundaries in the absence of forceful facilitation”.
The LSB insisted that it is delivering its statutory responsibilities and that “it is odd that in doing so we face such fierce criticism”. The response concluded the difference between the LSB and the frontline regulators boils down to “how best to maintain and improve the legal services environment for all who rely on it… It is our objectivity that allows us to see what those embedded in the sector may not and which leaves us well placed to mitigate the risks faced”.