A former senior servant with substantial experience of competition law has been named the new chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel. Sarah Chambers replaces Dr Jane Martin, who resigned after just a year in post to become a member of the Office for Legal Complaints, the body that oversees the Legal Ombudsman.
The legal market has proven “inept” at responding to the needs of vulnerable consumers and its regulators are not coming up with a strategy to tackle the problem, the Legal Services Consumer Panel has said. The watchdog said it was also concerned that regulators were not thinking about consumer confusion sufficiently as they looked to make the market more flexible.
If the Legal Services Board is serious about promoting access to justice it must end its silence on the legal aid cuts, lawyers’ organisations have said. The Bar Council accused the oversight regulator of acting like “another department of government” by refusing to comment.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel is on the hunt for a new chair after the incumbent jumped ship after just a year to become a member of the Office for Legal Complaints, the body that oversees the Legal Ombudsman. Meanwhile, the Law Society has named the members of its new main board, a key part of its new governance structure.
The Legal Services Board has rejected a call from its consumer panel to consider a centralised regime of financial protection for clients to replace what the panel called the “fragmented” nature of insurance and compensation arrangements across the different legal regulators.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel today ratcheted up the pressure on regulators to impose transparency requirements on lawyers with survey findings that only 6% of consumers could find prices on their websites. The panel’s annual tracker survey described a sector “which is slow to respond to consumer need”.
The Lord Chancellor, David Lidington, has unexpectedly rejected the Legal Services Board’s recommendation that chartered accountants should be able to handle litigation, advocacy and legal instruments in taxation work. It is the first time the Ministry of Justice has rejected a regulatory extension of this nature,
Change in disciplinary standard of proof “will incentivise barristers to deliver good services”, says consumer panel
The Legal Services Consumer Panel has given strong backing to the Bar Standards Board’s proposal to reduce the standard of proof in disciplinary proceedings from the criminal to the civil standard. “[It] will be fairer on consumers, and it may act as a positive incentive for barristers to deliver good services,” the panel said.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel has fired a warning shot across the bows of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, saying it needs to put more consumer protections in place before pressing ahead with its controversial plan to allow solicitors to practise from unregulated firms next year.
The government indicated today that it will not go ahead with plans to completely separate legal regulators from their linked professional bodies, such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Law Society. It came in a review of the Legal Services Board and Office for Legal Complaints that found both “generally operating efficiently and effectively”.