The Legal Services Board (LSB) is considering whether to consolidate the disciplinary regimes run by all the different legal regulators, it has emerged.
It said concerns raised by both the Law Society and Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) about consistency between appeals under the existing arrangements and appeals involving alternative business structures (ABSs) “suggest we should explore the feasibility of rationalising existing mechanisms sooner rather than later”.
The revelation came in a consultation paper issued by the LSB on a recommendation to the Lord Chancellor that he change the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal’s remit so that it can hear appeals against a range of decisions made by the SRA in relation to ABSs.
The LSB’s plan was that appeals from decisions of any ABS licensing authority any should go to the general regulatory chamber of the First-tier Tribunal, but while it originally supported this, the SRA eventually vetoed it. The LSB has been unable to allay the SRA’s concerns that the chamber will not be able to make the same costs orders as the SDT.
The LSB said: “There are a number of compelling reasons why it is a desirable policy objective for all legal services appeals (about ABS, ‘traditional’ firms, and all authorised persons) to be dealt with through a single, consistent mechanism.
“Establishing a single mechanism has not been feasible in the timescales for introducing ABS. Approved regulators currently have a range of separate discipline and appeals arrangements in place, and we intend to review whether it is appropriate to rationalise these in due course.”
The paper indicated that after preparatory work in the next year, the review could be properly launched in 2012/13.