Legal oversight regulator must focus on sector recovery and access to justice

The Law Society of England & Wales has today called on the Legal Services Board (LSB) to concentrate on the sector’s recovery and access to justice, in its response to the oversight regulator’s draft 2021-2022 strategy and business plan.

Law Society president David Greene said: “We are pleased to see that the LSB’s three strategic themes: fairer outcomes, stronger confidence and better services, broadly align with the Law Society’s priorities. However, the strategy should prioritise economic recovery and addressing the crisis in the justice system.

“The LSB is developing its strategy at a time of crisis in the justice system and the wider legal services sector. The key challenges include the social and economic impact of the pandemic, Brexit, and years of severe under-funding in the justice system, all of which are having a significant impact on the profession, clients and wider public confidence.

“In light of this, we encourage the LSB to focus its strategy on promoting access to justice, ensuring regulatory stability and certainty and supporting a strong, independent and diverse profession in order to maintain public confidence and aid recovery of the sector post-pandemic.

“We also believe promoting innovation and diversity should be considered amongst the oversight regulator’s key strategic priorities, as they will help the sector flourish.

“The LSB’s strategy necessitates that everyone working in the sector plays their part. Collective and coordinated working between stakeholders should become the norm. In this vein, it will be vital that the LSB provides clarity on where its role begins and ends, especially its core role in relation to frontline regulators.

“We will encourage the LSB to understand the perspectives of the profession, and especially solicitors who will play a pivotal role in delivering the strategy by keeping the wheels of the justice system turning, upholding the rule of law and serving clients.”

The Law Society is recommending the LSB:

  • focuses on the biggest challenges: access to justice, fair outcomes for disadvantaged people, a diverse and inclusive profession, high quality legal services, strong ethics, innovation and technology
  • strikes a better balance across its regulatory objectives – by doing more to encourage an independent, strong and effective legal profession and to protect and promote the public interest, which is vital during a time of economic and social upheaval
  • does more to adhere to its core statutory role by overseeing regulators’ performance and ensuring high professional standards, clearly articulating how it can add value to avoid duplication
  • focuses on impact – the LSB should identify key performance indicators and impact measures against which it can be held to account

David Greene added: “The Law Society is keen to play its part in driving progress on these issues, particularly by advancing diversity and inclusion in the profession and enhancing technology and innovation in the sector.

“We have significant ongoing work programmes in these areas and the insight of our members will be essential to making sustainable changes across the sector.

“We look forward to working with the LSB in the coming months to ensure the justice system, the profession and the public are protected during this unsettling time.”

Friday, 5th February, 2021