The Legal Services Board (LSB) is to hire an external accountant to examine how the Law Society and other regulators spend money raised through practising certificate (PC) fees.
The move is part of a review of the cost of legal services regulation which the LSB plans to launch later this year. The first phase of the project will look at the cost of regulation to lawyers, and the second the costs of the regulators, including the LSB itself.
The LSB said the accountant would review PC expenditure over the last four years, highlight trends in expenditure and compare the law with other sectors.
“The cost accountant will be tasked with establishing the appropriate benchmark which may include international comparisons and comparisons with well-managed organisations in the public or private sector,” the oversight regulator said.
The LSB said it aimed to appoint a research company next month, conduct “field work” from January to March next year and publish a final report by June 2015. The estimated cost of the research is £80,000.
A spokesman said the research team would carry out a “detailed and thorough assessment of the totality of regulatory costs” faced by authorised persons and “test the hypothesis” that legal services regulation was “unnecessarily expensive”.
It would also undertake a “high-level exploration of the costs of the regulators and the LSB” and identify common areas where firms could reduce compliance costs.
The cost to lawyers of continuing professional development (CPD) is included in the research project. “Traditionally CPD for authorised persons has centred on the requirement to undertake a set number of hours of training per year,” the LSB said in a scoping paper for the project.
“As this is a cost imposed by regulators, over and above that of simply ensuring that individuals are competent to deliver legal services, we intend to include the cost of this type of CPD requirement within the scope of this project.
“The question of what constitutes efficient expenditure in meeting CPD requirements is one that will be addressed in partnership with our external consultants.”
The LSB said the project would only be a success if legal services providers took part, and it was keen for as many as possible to respond to an online survey, due to go out at the end of this month.