The Law Society of England & Wales recently published its Annual Statistics Report for 2021, its compendium and analysis of useful numbers about the trends in the solicitors profession. (In fact, it is the second report published this year, the 2020 report having been delayed by the Covid pandemic.)
I have followed these reports for many years, charting the ups and downs in the trends. I was therefore brought up short by this comment by the President of the Law Society, as reported in Legal Futures: “The decline in the number of firms also highlights the need for widespread investment in our justice system including legal aid rates to ensure lawyers are there when needed.”
The reason that I. Stephanie Boyce’s comment grabbed my attention is that the two elements of the sentence (decline and need for public investment) do not on the face of it appear to be supported by the data or even connected. Some further digging into the report and other sources was called for. Continue reading →
Since January 2020, the Legal Services Board (LSB) has been on a mission: to require front-line regulators to assure themselves of the competence of their regulated practitioners throughout their careers. It issued a call for evidence, commissioned reports, and consulted* on its proposals. The process has now resulted in a new statutory statement of policy intended to ensure that regulators “have appropriate frameworks for continuing assurance of professional competence throughout the careers of the people they regulate”. Consequently, “consumers should be able to trust that legal professionals have the necessary skills, knowledge and attributes to provide good quality legal services and that they are kept up to date and relevant over time”.
It is impossible to argue against the good intentions here. But, regrettably, the mission is impossible; both the consequential cost and burden of it to the regulated community (and ultimately to consumers) are disproportionate; the evidence does not support it; and, for me, it is therefore an unwelcome example of inappropriate regulation.
The recent announcement by the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX), the governing body and ‘approved regulator’ for chartered legal executives, that it is contemplating moving its delegated regulatory authority from CILEX Regulation to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has understandably caused a stir. The response of CILEX Regulation (the current delegated regulatory body) that CILEX has no power to do this has resulted in the episode being described as a public spat. But a spat is usually something that is brief and about an issue that is petty or not that important. This quarrel is none of those things, and so it matters. Continue reading →