In the Media

LSB defies calls to 'change direction'

PUBLISHED April 3, 2012

Wednesday 04 April 2012 by John Hyde

The Legal Services Board super-regulator looks set to defy calls from the profession to scale back its role.

In a review published yesterday of the five years since the Legal Services Act, the board says there is 'no need at this stage for a change of direction' in its strategic priorities.

The Bar Council this week echoed calls from the Law Society for the LSB's role to be 'confined'. Chairman Michael Todd QC said it 'makes no sense' for the LSB to duplicate the functions of regulators such as the SRA.

The LSB report maintains that the board continues to have a role in improving the performance of approved regulators, helping consumers and enabling the legal profession to flourish.

It sets out plans for the next three years, including a review of education and training and the development of outcomes-focused regulation.

LSB chief executive Chris Kenny said: 'We will fill a gap as long as there is a need for it to be filled - we will not do it for the sake of it.'

Kenny said his organisation has cut costs by 9% in the past year to bring the annual budget to less than £4.5m - which equates to around £31 per authorised professional. By 2014/15 the plan is to reduce the budget to £4.4m.

'What the LSB does and its size are not determined by us but by how effectively the regulators pick up the baton themselves,' he added.

The LSB's Baseline Report on the Market Impact of the Legal Services Act 2007 shows that the market has contracted sharply for residential property transactions, divorce petitions and non-family civil proceedings.

But while prices have risen steeply, and the public has a perception of legal services as costly and unaffordable, consumers are generally happy with the service their lawyer provides. The most recent survey, carried out last year, found 11% of clients thought the service was poor value for money, compared with 56% who thought it value for money, up from 46% in a survey two years previously. Some 27% believed the service they received was neither good nor poor value.

Complaints about solicitors have also risen, but Kenny said he expected a fall in the caseload of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal as only the most serious breaches are taken that far.