The Legal Services Board (LSB) launched a consumer-focussed strategy for legal services in England and Wales, and called for collaboration to reshape legal services to better meet society’s needs.
The ambitious ten-year strategy reflects that the significant challenges facing the legal services sector can only be tackled by people and organisations working together to pursue a common agenda.
To galvanise action, the LSB has identified nine challenges across the sector that, if addressed, will deliver real improvements for citizens and consumers. It also makes clear that the challenges are complex and will need concerted action by everyone connected with legal services.
The strategy has been published alongside the LSB’s 2021/22 business plan, both of which the LSB Board agreed following a public consultation.
The LSB’s final business plan focuses on areas where regulatory activity can have the greatest impact and build on existing momentum for change. These areas include equality, diversity and inclusion, consumer engagement, and facilitating innovation.
The LSB remains committed to other priorities identified in the strategy, such as a statutory review of the reserved legal activities, a review of professional indemnity insurance, and work on simple legal products, but it has deferred these until resources permit.
Reprioritising activity has enabled the LSB to accept the expanded coordination and leadership role that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has asked it to take. This will require a higher level of resources than the LSB had anticipated before the consultation.
Reprioritising and rescoping activity also means that the LSB has not had to increase the 2021/22 budget of £4,098k that it consulted on.
This is equivalent to around £1 per authorised person. The LSB is mindful of the economic pressures on the sector and the exceptional circumstances resulting from Covid-19. However, the Board agreed that this £175k (4.4%) increase on the 2020/21 budget was required to enable the LSB to tackle the significant challenges facing the sector as laid out in its State of Legal Services 2020 report.
Dr Helen Phillips, Chair of the Legal Services Board, said:
“While there have been many achievements over the last ten years of independent regulation, there continue to be significant levels unmet legal need. We must seize this moment to drive forward a strategy that promotes the public interest, supports competition and growth, and encourages diversity and inclusion. The LSB cannot do this alone – everyone in the sector must work together to pursue our shared interests.
“We are greatly encouraged by the commitment to collaboration that characterised so many responses to our consultation. Only by working together can the sector emerge strongly from the Covid-19 pandemic and successfully tackle the challenges it faces.
“If we all work together, we will improve diversity, and the sector will look more like the society it serves. The system will better support innovation and be equipped to respond to the changing market. Consumers will be able to shop around and reward firms that offer high-quality, transparent, and affordable services. The strategy is necessarily ambitious, and if we all play our part, we can achieve our vision. Through collaboration, we will reshape services to create a strong and resilient sector that better meets society’s needs.”