Costs News

12 September 2019
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CLSB eyes power to issue interim suspensions for Costs Lawyers in serious cases

The Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB) is to consult on adopting powers that would allow it to issue the interim suspension of a Costs Lawyer in serious cases, it has emerged.

It has also been praised by the Legal Services Board (LSB) for the progress made on certain aspects of its performance.

Back in January, the LSB published its first assessment of the performance of all the regulatory bodies following the introduction of a new performance framework in December 2017. It measures each regulatory body against five standards and 26 underpinning outcomes.

The CLSB received the worst report by some distance, and the LSB highlighted several areas where action was needed. They included: the CLSB being “not aligned” with the LSB’s education and training guidance; the “very limited” evidence base about the market that the CLSB uses to inform its regulatory approach; the absence of a power to suspend a Costs Lawyer’s authorisation, for the purposes of protecting consumers or others, during a complaints process; the CLSB’s failure to review its enforcement or appeals regime; an incomplete risk register; and a lack of transparency over the decisions the CLSB makes or how the board holds the executive to account.

It set the CLSB various tasks to improve on each of these and the LSB published an update on the progress made last week.

It said that the CLSB has reviewed its disciplinary rules and procedures “to ensure they allow appropriate prioritisation of serious cases”. The update continued: “It has concluded that a consultation is required on proposals to amend its rules. This should lead to implementation of either interim orders powers or procedures to ensure that consumers and others are appropriately protected in the absence of such powers. The CLSB has indicated that it will shortly issue a consultation but has not confirmed an exact timeframe.”

The LSB was pleased with what has been done to address the CLSB’s structural issues. It said: “The CLSB has made considerable progress and has developed and published a three-year strategy document which will inform its 2020 business plan.

“Further, the CLSB has refreshed its approach to documenting risk and has published an updated risk register following its July board meeting. The change in risk register is welcome and reflects the action set in January 2019. The CLSB has also provided an updated disaster recovery and business continuity plan.”

The LSB also noted the “significant progress” made by the CLSB in improving the transparency of its decision making, and that the regulator has developed a new KPIs policy.

There has been some progress towards aligning the CLSB’s approach to continuing professional development with the LSB’s guidance on what it expects from regulators, but this will not be completed until next spring.

The CLSB has yet to make progress on the requirement to build a robust evidence base to inform its regulatory arrangements and approach, but the LSB said there were plans in place to develop this, which will include a report on consumers of Costs Lawyers’ services.

Kate Wellington (pictured), chief executive of the CLSB, said: “Since I took the helm in June, the CLSB has delivered the first phase of a comprehensive action plan designed to bring our regulatory processes up to standard. The LSB’s recent assessment reflects the significant inroads that have been made.

“We will continue to work closely with the LSB as we implement further improvements for the benefit of Costs Lawyers, their clients and the wider public.”

 

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