Costs News

10 December 2015
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Independence day looms?

The government announced its intention to effect the complete separation of the legal regulators from representative bodies last week.

This will affect the ACL, Law Society, Bar Council, Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and the two intellectual property regulators.

A consultation, which will be published “by spring 2016”, will also contain proposals to remove “barriers to entry for alternative business models in legal services”.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) confirmed that this consultation – which it will carry out – was in advance of the wider review of the Legal Services Act 2007, which has been promised by Lord Chancellor Michael Gove.

Treasury officials said making legal service regulators independent from their representative bodies, along with the ABS reforms, would help “create a fairer, more balanced regulatory regime for England and Wales that encourages competition, making it easier for businesses such as supermarkets and estate agents, among others, to offer legal services like conveyancing, probate and litigation”.

CLSB chief executive Lynn Plumbley said: “We view this as a positive step which will reinforce regulatory independence across the whole of the regulated legal community. The CLSB has probably achieved a greater degree of separation than certain other approved regulators; for example, the fee for membership of the ACL is separate to the fee paid to the CLSB for authorisation and regulation.”

The Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board have also backed the move.

ACL chair Sue Nash said: “The CLSB already enjoys the level of independence apparently envisaged by the MoJ so it is difficult to see how this proposal will make any significant difference to Costs Lawyers. While independence between regulatory and representative bodies seems logical and inevitable, both should aim to work together for the benefit of the professions as well as consumers.”

Legal Services Board chairman Sir Michael Pitt added: “As our work with the other regulators earlier this year showed, there is a strong case for fundamental reform of the regulatory framework in this sector. Lack of independence between regulators and representative bodies is slowing reforms that would otherwise benefit both the profession and consumers.”

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