Legal regulators must do more on transparency and harm prevention, says LSB

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has published its latest assessment of the performance of the eight legal services regulators. The LSB is the independent body responsible for overseeing the regulation of legal services in England and Wales.

In it’s assessment, which covers the period October 2022 to May 2023, the LSB has reviewed the regulators’ performance against its regulatory performance framework’s Well-led and Effective Approach to Regulation standards. The Regulatory Performance Framework consists of two documents: The Sourcebook of Standards and Characteristics and the Process document

The LSB has not assessed regulators’ performance against the new Operational delivery standard in this assessment period.

The eight regulatory objectives are:

  • protecting and promoting the public interest
  • supporting the constitutional principle of the rule of law
  • improving access to justice
  • protecting and promoting the interests of consumers
  • promoting competition in the pro[1]vision of services
  • encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession
  • increasing public understanding of the citizen’s legal rights and duties
  • promoting and maintaining adherence to the professional principles.

A ninth regulatory objective, promoting the prevention and detection of economic crime, will be inserted into s1 of the Act in an amendment made under s209 of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023, which is yet to come into force.

The assessment identified several common themes that need to be addressed:

  • Some regulators are not transparent enough about how they make decisions affecting consumers, the public and their regulated communities
  • Some regulators need to do more to ensure they have the right skills, expertise and systems in place to regulate effectively in the public interest.
  • Several regulators need to do more to show how they use evidence to make decisions and evaluate the impact of their work to ensure it is making a positive difference.

While the report finds that some progress has been made since their last assessment, areas of improvement have been identified for each of the regulators. The LSB expects to see progress on these areas before the next round of assessments.

The report also highlights significant events for the sector that fell outside the assessment period. These include:

  • The identification of serious wrongdoing by some solicitors in relation to immigration advice], and subsequent regulatory action by the SRA, and
  • The SRA’s decision, in August 2023, to intervene in Axiom Ince, and the LSB’s subsequent review into the regulator’s actions leading up to it.
  • The coming to light of the potential scale of involvement of legal professionals in the miscarriages of justice at the heart of the Post Office scandal

The LSB continues to monitor the progress of regulators in responding to these developments.

Richard Orpin, Director, Regulation and Policy, said:

“Since our last assessment, we have identified a number of areas where regulators have made progress but there remains room for improvement.

In particular, regulators need to demonstrate they have sufficient capacity and capability to deliver for consumers and the wider public, as well as ensuring they are able to identify and respond to emerging risks in a timely way.

In the wake of events such as the Post Office scandal, the collapse of Axiom Ince and the and the use of abusive litigation tactics, such as SLAPPs, it has never been more important for regulators to be able to demonstrate that they are able and ready to act decisively in the public interest.

The LSB will continue to hold regulators to account for their performance.”

Responding to the Legal Services Board’s (LSB) Regulatory Performance Assessment report, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, Nick Emmerson, commented:

“Having confidence in our regulator is important for the rule of law. Both the legal profession and the public need to be assured that legal regulation is robust for the judicial system to operate effectively. It is therefore good to see the progress the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has made as it continues to maintain its ‘sufficient’ assessment rating.

In May the SRA took over the management of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund, demonstrating a commitment to maintaining high professional standards and long-term consumer protections.

While the report shows progress being made, it does also recognise that the SRA’s intervention in Axiom Ince and the LSB’s subsequent review into the regulator’s actions leading up to it, have not been accounted for as part of the assessment.

If the LSB’s review were to identify any failings by the SRA before the intervention, it would be appropriate for the ratings given to the SRA to be reviewed.”

Commenting on the CILEx Regulation performance, Nick Emmerson added:

“The LSB notes improvements in the performance of CILEx Regulation Ltd (CRL) and gives it a rating no lower than a number of other regulators it oversees including the Bar Standards Board.

We continue to believe that CRL is the best entity to provide the specialist regulation needed for CILEX members.”

You can read the regulatory performance assessment report here.




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