Government may consider changes to regulation of legal services following review
16 September 2020
At the Westminster Legal Policy Forum, the Ministry of Justice commented that they are considering whether to create a register of unregulated providers of legal services following the publication of the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation prepared by Professor Mayson
The two-year Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation, supported by the Centre for Ethics and Law, concluded in June 2020 with the submission of the final report to the Lord Chancellor. The 320-page report was prepared by Professor Stephen Mayson, Honorary Professor at UCL Laws, and included both long-term and short-term recommendations for regulatory reform.
The long-term recommendations were offered in the spirit of suggestions for whenever the timing might be right for more substantive reform rather than in any expectation that this would be in the near future. The short-term recommendations are, however, a reflection of the more immediate pressures on both consumers and providers resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. They include proposals for a public register of currently unregulated providers, with associated requirements for a minimum level of professional indemntity insurance and access to redress from an ombudsman.
The report attracted widespread coverage in national and professional media, and was recently the focus of a half-day seminar convened by the Westminster Legal Policy Forum on the future of legal services in England and Wales.
In early September, the Competition & Markets Authority launched its promised review of the progress made since its legal services market study in 2016. In its associated Call for Inputs document, the CMA says that it will "draw upon the findings of the final report by Professor Stephen Mayson”, and “assess whether, in principle, the IRLSR recommendations would remedy the redress gap we identified in our market study”. The CMA is aiming to conclude its short, focused review and report to the government by the end of 2020, and will consider “whether we remain of the view that only a wholesale review of the regulatory framework will achieve effective change”.
At the Westminster Legal Policy Forum seminar on 15 September (a report is available at Legal Futures), senior officials from the Ministry of Justice said that they had found the final report "a thought-provoking piece of work". In relation to the report's short-term recommendations of a public register for currently unregulated providers and access for their clients to the ombudsman, Clare Hayes (Deputy Director of UK Legal Services at the MoJ) said that "we do think those are really interesting proposals". They now intend to explore the potential gains and benefits of short-term reform, balanced against the risks and costs of any change.