Justice Committee Contents


Memorandum submitted by the Legal Services Board

  1.  This is a briefing note for the Committee prepared by the Legal Services Board as background for the hearing on 25 February.

ROLE OF THE LEGAL SERVICES BOARD (LSB)

  2.  The LSB is a single oversight regulator for the legal profession, set up following the Legal Services Act 2007. Our work is guided by the eight regulatory objectives as defined in the Act (Annex 1). We oversee the eight Approved Regulators (see Annex 2) and also appoint and approve the budget of the Office for Legal Complaints, which will also manage the new Ombudsman Scheme for the Legal Services market.

  3.  The LSB will be a small organisation—perhaps no more than 35 high quality fulltime staff—working with a non-executive Chairman and Board. The approach will be project-based analysis of specific policy areas.

  4.  We have to promote the public interest and uphold the rule of law, to improve access to justice and open the legal services' market, help citizens understand their legal rights and responsibilities, and foster an independent, diverse and effective legal profession.

  5.  One of the LSB's key roles is to complement the profession in its own efforts to address the regulatory objectives. It will do this by:

    —  providing constructive critical challenge;

    —  identifying relevant learning from both legislation and wider regulatory practice in other sectors and in other jurisdictions, and ensuring its dissemination;

    —  acting as a fulcrum on matters of legal services research, education and training to assist the development of standards; and

    —  ensuring that best practice from each of the Approved Regulators is identified, celebrated and communicated.

  6.  Both the LSB and the approved regulators need to ensure that regulatory interventions are swift enough and appropriately targeted to reflect the changes of a fast, ever-changing and ever-developing market place, both globally and in the high street. The LSB needs to be adequately funded to have in place the staff with the appropriate skills and experience to deal with the complex issues of legal services regulation and to develop the momentum to address our wide ranging agenda holistically. But we are, of course, conscious of the financial pressures on the legal services sector and will ensure that our plans are proportionate.

  7.  Funding will be provided by a levy on the sector. Our current estimates are that in the first full year of operation—2010-11—our costs will be in line with what the Ministry of Justice estimated while the Act was going through Parliament. We are consulting now on the split of the set up costs (also to be clawed back via the levy).

PROGRESS TO DATE

  8.  The practical implementation of the LSB in effect began in May 2008. The key milestones we have reached so far are:

October 2007—Legal Services Act received Royal Assent.

May 2008—David Edmonds appointed as Chairman of the Board and a small transition team created.

September 2008—Terry Connor, Steve Green, Mike Napier, Rosemary Martin, Bill Moyes Barbara Saunders, Nicole Smith, Andrew Whittaker and David Wolfe were appointed as members of the Board.

November 2008—appointment of Elizabeth France as the Chair of the Office for Legal Complaints, following Select Committee confirmatory hearing.

January 2009—Chris Kenny becomes CEO of the LSB.

End January 2009—Draft business plan published.

February 2009—appointment of the OLC Board—Margaret Doyle, David Thomas, Professor Mary Semiveratne, Tony Foster, Rosemary Carter and Brian Woods-Scawen.

THE BUSINESS PLAN

  9.  The major priority of the Board has been the thinking which has developed into our draft business plan. We have set out the way in which we want to see the legal services market deliver for consumers over the next five years. Its components are:

    —  Putting consumer and public interest at the heart of regulation.

    —  Widening access to the legal market.

    —  Improving service by resolving complaints properly.

    —  Developing excellence in legal services regulation.

    —  Securing independent regulation.

    —  Promoting access to a diverse legal profession.

    —  Developing research and public legal education strategies.

  10.  To do this we will:

    —  subject to resources being available, appoint our consumer panel and have it in place in the summer;

    —  work with the approved regulators to implement the framework for alternative business structures as quickly as possible consistent with proper consumer protection;

    —  produce robust proposals on how approved regulators should ensure the split of the regulatory and representative functions;

    —  respond to the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions as part of our duty to encourage a strong, diverse, independent and effective profession;

    —  help the OLC recruit its implementation team and begin to work with it on key issues such as the production of its scheme rules;

    —  produce proposals for the levy on approved regulators for our funding; and

    —  appoint our key staff and build our internal policies and procedures.

  11.  We look forward to working with the Select Committee, both in its oversight of our own performance and in contributing to its deliberations on wider issues in which the Board has an interest.

February 2009

Annex 1

  Section 1 of the Legal Services Act sets out a set of regulatory objectives for the LSB and the ARs, these are to:

    —  protect and promote the public interest;

    —  support the constitutional principle of the rule of law;

    —  improve access to justice;

    —  protect and promote the interest of consumers;

    —  promote competition in the provision of legal services;

    —  encourage an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession;

    —  increase public understanding of the citizen's legal rights and duties; and

    —  promote and maintain adherence to the professional principles.

Annex 2

APPROVED REGULATORS

Law Society

Bar Council

Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX)

Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC)

Charter Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA)

Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (ITMA)

Faculty Office

Association of Law Cost Draftsmen (ALCD)

The Institute of Chartered Accountants for Scotland is currently authorised to carry out a reserved legal activity (probate) and will become an Approved Regulator





 
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