Costs News

15 September 2021
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CLSB and other regulators under pressure to help would-be clients shop around

The Legal Services Board (LSB) is to ramp up the pressure on regulators, including the Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB), to ensure that they and those they regulate provide people and small businesses who need legal advice with the information they need to shop around.

It has published a draft statement of policy on consumer outcomes that sets expectations about ensuring legal services providers offer helpful information to consumers about the cost and quality of their services and on redress and regulation.

The LSB is also proposing that regulators implement programmes of activity to support public legal education, focusing on work that supports people to understand when they have a legal problem and how to access the professional help they need to resolve it.

It will use this statement as a yardstick to judge applications for rule changes and regulator performance.

The consultation follows the Competition and Markets Authority's market study of legal services in 2016 and follow-up review last year which found the market was not working in the best interests of consumers.

It recommended that the regulators improve market transparency for consumers and the LSB to coordinate and oversee progress.

The consultation paper recognised that different approaches may be appropriate for some of parts of the profession. “For example, few Costs Lawyers regulated by the CLSB deal directly with individual consumers and small businesses.

“Likewise, patent and trademark attorneys regulated by the Intellectual Property Regulation Board will generally provide their services to more frequent consumers, including larger businesses.

“We still expect that these regulators will take the necessary steps to ensure appropriate levels of transparency to support increased consumer understanding of their regulated communities in those markets.”

The LSB said it welcomed the progress made to date by the regulators and pointed to the recently established market transparency co-ordination and oversight group, chaired by the LSB and with the CLSB as a member, as a forum for the different regulators to collaborate.

LSB chair Helen Phillips (pictured) said: “For too long, too many people and small businesses who need legal support have been unable to navigate the legal services market and get the help they need.

“We want to work with the regulators to build on the progress made so far and make it easier for consumers to make informed and effective choices when choosing a legal services provider.

"The draft statutory statement is a proportionate and targeted regulatory tool to drive progress by the regulators, and it sets a general principle that they should work collaboratively to address the challenges in this area.

“By working together, we can transform the relationships between consumers and legal services providers and promote a culture of increased transparency, openness and accountability.”

The consultation will run for 12 weeks, closing on 8 December.

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