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Regulators “must be pressured” to publish lawyers’ disciplinary records

Online registers: Disciplinary information vital

The Legal Services Board (LSB) is not putting enough pressure on the frontline regulators to publish details of lawyers’ disciplinary records on their online registers, it has been claimed.

Last week, the LSB published a regulatory performance review that found several regulators did not meet its requirements to provide a list of those they regulate, and include information about their disciplinary record.

It was raised as a problem for the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Council for Licensed Conveyancers, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Intellectual Property Regulation Board and Master of the Faculties – although all said they had work in progress to put a full register in place.

The oversight regulator said it would initially discuss the issue both at a “senior level”, in meetings with each regulator’s chair and CEO, and at ‘relationship management’ meetings.

“We expect this to be a less onerous process for both the LSB and regulatory bodies than carrying out a more structured thematic review.”

In a blog, Sarah Chambers, chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, said it started raising concerns about this issue in 2016, when its report on open data in legal services [1] argued that consumers have the right to know about the shortcomings of the firms with whom they deal.

Ms Chambers said: “Given that this non-compliance has been an ongoing concern, we expect the LSB to escalate its planned response beyond an initial conversation with individual CEOs and chairs.

“The LSB says it is choosing this option because it is ‘less onerous for both the LSB and regulatory bodies’. Well yes, but if the situation does not seem to be improving, does that indicate the conversations are not working?

“Could the regulators benefit from a thorough review and analysis of transparency around sanctions now rather than later?

Ms Chambers argued that making enforcement data available to consumers would particularly benefit from consistency in approach, as far as practicable.

“It is even more urgent at a time when the flagship consumer-facing website Legal Choices [run by all the legal regulators] is being redeveloped.

“That site plans to link consumers to disciplinary records. As it stands, consumers will find a complicated web of inconsistencies. Therefore, merely hinting at the possibility of a future review is arguably less action than is required at this stage. Why not do it now?”