A vastly experienced regulator who once described the prospect of a single regulator for lawyers as “inevitable” has been named as the new chair of the Legal Services Board (LSB).
Alan Kershaw will take over from Dr Helen Phillips for four years from 1 April following his appointment by the Lord Chancellor, Dominic Raab, after consultation with the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett.
Mr Kershaw was the first-ever head of chartered legal executives’ independent regulator, now called CILEx Regulation, having previously served on the board of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
For the past five years, he has sat on the board of a third legal regulator, IPReg, the Intellectual Property Regulation Board, and returned to CILEx Regulation as a member of its admissions and licensing committee. He will resign these posts after assuming the chair of the LSB.
Speaking at a Legal Futures conference in 2015, shortly before standing down from CILEx Regulation, Mr Kershaw said a single regulator for legal services was “inevitable as the branches of the legal profession grow together”.
He also argued that lawyers should be regulated “by competence, not by title”. He explained that titles were “not very important” and “not well understood outside the profession”.
Both of these ideas have been the LSB’s long-term direction of travel since a radical review published in 2016, although its current chief executive said recently that it was “highly over-optimistic” to think that an overhaul of the Legal Services Act 2007 would happen any time soon.
This came in the wake of comments from SRA chair Anna Bradley that the idea of a single regulator was being talked about in Westminster. She will be familiar with Mr Kershaw as she was chair of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers when he was in post at CILEx Regulation.
Mr Kershaw was involved in the Legal Education and Training Review, and at the conference called for what he described as “common stem” education and training for all lawyers.
“Attempts to unify arrangements for at least parts of legal training are foundering for the usual reasons, to an extent which was predictable.
“But I refuse to believe that it is impossible to identify some areas of what I call ‘common stem’ legal education – skills, knowledge and especially attitudes.”
However, Mr Kershaw said that as a minimum there needed to be agreement on the “portability” of training among the different branches of the profession, when the barriers between them were breaking down.
Before entering the legal world, Mr Kershaw was director of education and standards at the General Medical Council and then chief executive of the Council for the Registration of Forensic Practitioners.
He has also sat on the regulatory boards of the General Pharmaceutical Council and Institute & Faculty of Actuaries, and since 2020 chaired the Architects Registration Board. Last year, he became chair of the National Register of Public Service Interpreters too. He will continue with the latter two roles.
However, he will stand down as chair of the education visitor panel of the General Dental Council and lay adviser to the Royal College of General Practitioners.
Mr Kershaw said: “Working with the legal regulators and professions, I aim to ensure that the regulation delivered across the sector is effective and inspires public trust and confidence. I am eager to make a positive impact and look forward to the opportunities ahead.
“While I have experience in regulation in the legal and other sectors, I will engage widely and work collaboratively to build on the vital work of the Legal Services Board.”
He takes over at a time when CILEx Regulation is in a conflict with CILEX currently being adjudicated by the LSB – another member of the LSB is Stephen Gowland, who was a president of CILEX during Mr Kershaw’s tenure at its regulator.
Dr Helen Phillips, who has spent eight years on the board of the LSB, six as chair, said: “It has been a privilege to serve as chair of the LSB and as a board member. I will look back with satisfaction on our achievements as a sector, including improvements in price transparency and public legal education that make it easier for people to navigate the legal services market and exercise consumer choice.
“The LSB’s policy statement on ongoing competence will ensure that lawyers have the skills, knowledge and behaviours to provide good quality legal services. This is vital for public trust and confidence.
“The LSB has taken a strategic approach to regulation across the whole sector to better connect people to the legal services that are right for them and to reduce unmet legal need.”
Law Society president Lubna Shuja said: “We congratulate Alan Kershaw on his appointment. We look forward to working constructively with him.
“During her four-year tenure, Helen Phillips has made great strides in improvements to public legal education about the legal services market, which we applaud.”
IPReg chair Lord Smith of Finsbury said Mr Kershaw had “contributed significantly to IPReg’s work particularly the recent review of our regulatory arrangements”. He added: We look forward to working with him at the LSB.”