The current regulatory approach to lawyers’ ongoing competence needs to change, the Legal Services Board (LSB) has concluded, with assessments such as spot checks likely to be part of the reform.
It will also explore how “feedback and other intelligence” can be used to identify poor performance.
The LSB has been investigating since last year the methods by which the legal regulators ensure that those they regulate remain competent throughout their careers and is now ready to start testing its conclusions.
In a paper going before today’s meeting of the LSB, officials said: “The current arrangements are out of step with consumers’ expectations that all legal professionals demonstrate their ongoing competence and undergo consistent, regular competence checks by regulators to prove they keep their skills and knowledge up to date.
“The current arrangements are also out of step with other professional sectors, and some other jurisdictions, that have more systematic ongoing competence checks to respond to competence concerns, promote public trust and confidence and protect consumers from harm.
“This means that the status quo is not the best way to protect and promote the regulatory objectives and across the market, we consider a change in approach is required.”
The LSB is now planning to discuss its outline policy proposals with stakeholders ahead of launching a formal consultation before the end of the year.
The LSB highlighted four areas where it wanted to “progress its understanding” – developing core competencies for all lawyers, using “feedback and other intelligence to prevent and identify poor performance”, remedial approaches to competence concerns and “competence assessments (such as spot checks) to provide assurance”.
The outcome could include new guidance to regulators or a statutory statement of policy under the Legal Services Act.
“We want to test views on the benefits, costs and overall effectiveness of the different measures and what should be the roles of regulators and others, including employers and judges, in ensuring ongoing competence,” the paper said.