IRLSR: key proposals and reactions so far

This post is the text of the opening keynote address delivered to the Westminster Legal Policy Forum on the future of legal services in England & Wales (held online on 15 September 2020). A PDF of the address is also available for download here.

Every time I looked at the draft of the final report, I would change something or elaborate on aspects of it.  It wasn’t that I had changed my mind, but that I was always trying to make my meaning and intention as clear as possible.  With the report[1] having been submitted to the Lord Chancellor and published, I am therefore content for now that the report should speak for itself – subject to one caveat that I shall return to later.

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Legal services regulation: the final report

After two years, my final report of the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation has been published.  It is available for download from this site and from UCL.

In 2016, the Competition & Markets Authority completed its market study and concluded that the legal services sector is not working well for individual consumers and small businesses, and that the current regulatory framework under the Legal Services Act 2007 is not sustainable in the long run.  One of its recommendations was that the government should undertake a review of the current regulatory framework.

In light of Brexit, the Ministry understandably did not feel able at the time to commit to a formal review.  In July 2018, I therefore volunteered to undertake the Independent Review on a pro bono basis under the auspices of the Centre for Ethics & Law, in the Faculty of Laws at University College London.

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Re-thinking legal services regulation

My interim report for the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation in England & Wales is published today (available here).  This post is extracted from it.

While the reforms of the Legal Services Act 2007 have been mainly beneficial overall, that legislation might best be characterised as an incomplete step towards restructuring legal services regulation.

For reasons that are understandable, it did not fully follow through on some key elements of the regulatory structure.  These include: review and reform of the reserved legal activities (those few activities that must be provided by lawyers); the known regulatory gap (as a consequence of which the non-reserved activities of lawyers are regulated, but those of non-lawyers can legally be provided but cannot be regulated – to the potential detriment of consumers); and the separation of regulation from professional representative interests.

This lack of follow-through has led to increasing challenges to the integrity of the regulatory framework as the legal sector has evolved and developed since 2007.

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