The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Bar Standards Board (BSB) are set to launch a “legal services stakeholder network”, to give the public a direct say in how legal services are regulated, Legal Futures can reveal.
The joint network, due to go live next year, will be a free, virtual community and follows a push by the Legal Services Consumer Panel  to improve regulators’ engagement with consumers.
The BSB is also replacing its own consumer panel with a professional user group, after a scathing review highlighted serious shortcomings in the present arrangements.
The plans follow talks between the SRA and BSB , and the BSB’s board meeting was told last week that other aims of the network – whose exact name and format are still being worked on – include raising the profile of regulatory work and building constructive relationships between legal regulators.
The network will have its own website, and will be advertised through leaflets and posters which lawyers would be asked to display in their offices, while the regulators will also target consumer organisation. Members will receive regular e-mail updates and may be invited to attend focus groups, complete surveys and comment on key regulatory work.
An SRA spokesman said: “The SRA and the BSB are currently in discussions to create a network for members of the public to have their say about legal services, and the ways in which they are regulated. People that sign up to it will be able to talk to regulators about their experiences and their views on legal services, as well as being invited to take part in events and studies.”
An internal BSB review found that its consumer panel lacks a clear agenda and input from the general public. The user group will fulfil the BSB’s need for “specific detailed advice” from those who instruct barristers regularly or represent vulnerable people “that a member of the public will be unable to provide”.
The BSB was told that the kind of groups which might be invited to join the group include the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, Citizens Advice, Resolution, the Local Government Association, Which?, Unison, the Confederation of British Industry, Criminal Litigation Solicitors Association, AvMA (Action against Medical Accidents) and crime reduction charity NACRO.
The SRA spokesman said it had no similar plans for a user group.