Monday 04 March 2013 by John Hyde
The Bar Council has publicly attacked the Legal Services Board for appearing immune from financial pressures affecting the legal profession and government departments.
In a response to the LSB's business plan for 2013/14, the bar body said it had concerns over the costs and scope of the super-regulator's ambitions.
According to the LSB's own figures, its annual budget equates to around £30 per year for each lawyer.
Over the next year, the total LSB budget is estimated to be almost £4.9m, of which £250,000 is earmarked for research and professional services.
The Bar Council said its concerns were highlighted by a freedom of information request that found the LSB had spent £21,367 researching the cab rank rule .
In its response to the business plan, the organisation expressed 'serious reservations about this particular piece of research, the need for which is not clear'.
The response added: 'There is particular concern that so much is being spent on research that the Bar Council believes is of questionable quality and which the LSB itself indicates will not result in any sort of consultation.'
The Bar Council said the aim of regulation should be concentrated on ensuring that the justice system works in the public interest.
Maura McGowan QC (pictured), chairman of the bar, warned the LSB to avoid 'mission creep' and duplication of what is already being done by frontline regulators.
'Nobody can question the importance of proper regulation,' she said. 'However, at a time when most government departments have to reduce their expenditure, the oversight regulator does not appear to feel the same pressures. We must seek to ensure that the profession is not unnecessarily burdened by the weight and cost of regulation.'
Meanwhile, the LSB's latest research into pay equality has suggested that all legal service providers should be challenged to undertake and publish equal pay audits.
The board said law firms should be forced to reveal salary differences if inequality continues to prevail in the profession.
Just one-sixth of the large firms that have signed up to the Law Society's Diversity Charter have since undertaken an equal pay review.
The report, published last week, concluded: 'Information on the equality of pay in legal services suggests that as with the wider labour market, equality pay gaps do exist and that they are potentially more substantial in the legal services sector.'