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SRA Chief Counsels Caution Over Legal Regulation Reform

By John Hyde »

(12 August 2015)

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has expressed caution at the prospect of a wholesale shakeup of the Legal Services Act, after the profession’s umbrella watchdog published a report pointing to a ‘compelling’ case for reform. Chief executive Paul Philip believes more can be done to modernise regulation within the existing framework. Justice Secretary Michael Gove pledged earlier this month to review the Legal Services Act 2007 within this parliament, suggesting there is currently a ‘danger of regulators falling over one another’s feet’. This theme was picked up by the chairman of the Legal Services Board, Sir Michael Pitt, who claimed to see a ‘compelling case’ for reform of the legislation in the medium-term. His comment came after a report was published by the LSB based on cross-regulator discussions on the future of the sector. ‘The regulatory framework must be more efficient and effective in seeking to promote strong and fair competition,’ he said. ‘It has to be capable of responding to rapidly changing conditions in the market while also maintaining necessary protections for consumers and the public interest.’ The SRA appeared to distance itself from the report’s conclusions. Philip said: ‘The opportunity for joint discussion on the regulatory landscape is important and, as the LSB makes clear, this report does not represent collective or individual views. ‘Our consistent view is that there is much more that can be achieved in the current legislative framework.’ Philip said the priority for regulators should be supporting growth and reducing bureaucracy rather than seeking to change the regime. ‘At a time when growth and innovation are critical, our focus is on what we can do to free up firms to do business, while protecting the public.’ The LSB paper raised a number of issues that have not been resolved by the Legal Services Act, most notably the fixed list of reserved activities and the links between representative bodies and regulators. While it said there is no urgent need for fresh legislation, the paper did suggest that ongoing issues are holding back the pace of reform and making the work of regulators more difficult.

[Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette]