The Legal Services Board’s (LSB) attempts to enhance regulatory independence in the legal profession have come under fire from the Law Society.

The LSB is a ‘super regulator’ responsible for oversight of the legal professions’ approved regulators.  These include the Law Society and the Bar Council, which have dual responsibilities to both represent and regulate respectively solicitors and barristers.

The LSB has proposed new rules which will further strengthen the separation of regulatory and representative functions of these approved regulators.  This will reduce the influence that the Law Society can have over the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Bar Council over the Bar Standards Board.

We believe that regulation which is, and is seen to be, independent is central to maintaining confidence in legal services,” said Neil Buckley, Legal Services Board Chief Executive.

But the Law Society has attacked the LSB’s plans.  It believes the proposals are inconsistent with the Legal Services Act and could encourage disagreements between the Law Society and the SRA.  “We are concerned that they do not set out a clear enough framework for settling future complaints and may create a context in which disagreements are more likely to arise,” said the Society in its response to the proposals.

James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions, said: “Legal Services Board investigations have previously found instances of both the Law Society and the Bar Council encroaching on the independence of their regulatory bodies. The proposed rules are clearly an attempt to tighten regulation within the legal profession and ensure the separation of representative and regulatory activities.”

The LSB has published its consultation paper and a press release on its website.  Reports on the consultation and the Law Society’s response have been published by the Law Society Gazette, Legal Futures and Legal Eye.

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