The Law Society has welcomed the Legal Services Board’s (LSB) consultation on ongoing competence and standards, as the oversight regulator looks to change how legal professionals maintain their high standards.
The LSB has been examining whether the current approaches taken by regulators are effective in protecting consumers and the public interest.
The LSB is consulting on a set of high level expectations for regulators, set out in a policy statement, which identify guiding principles and acceptable methods of encouraging good behaviours to ensure ongoing competence.
Law Society of England and Wales president I. Stephanie Boyce said:
“Ongoing competence ensures solicitors do their jobs to the highest standards, providing high quality legal services to consumers. It is important to us that the profession is able to demonstrate how it maintains and promotes high competence standards, so we welcome the LSB’s focus in this area.
There is, however, no evidence of widespread issues demonstrated by the LSB’s work to date. Though there is a problem with public perception, with a public panel survey showing that 95% thought that checks should be made throughout a legal professional’s career.”
“The role a solicitor plays in someone’s life cannot be underestimated. They are called on for support and advice during important events – the death or injury of a loved one, family breakdown or a house purchase.
It is appropriate for regulators to collect better information about competence to guarantee standards are being met and to look at ways to demonstrate and communicate this to the public.”
Boyce did, however, voice several caveats with regard to the proposed changes:
“We would also support some form of compulsory training in areas such as equality, diversity and inclusion and IT/ tech – but the specifics should be determined by the individual, who is best placed to know what training they need.
Any changes implemented by regulators as a result of the LSB’s policy statement must be risk and evidence-based decisions, balancing the impact on the profession.
Supporting the profession to engage better with reflective practice, information sharing and highlighting examples of good practice would help maintain standards, as would drawing the profession’s attention to key risks and areas of competence issues through better communication.
While we appreciate that changes are necessary, some of the measures outlined in the consultation – reaccreditation, revalidation, competence assessments, observations and examinations – would likely be costly and time consuming and are unnecessary at this time for the entire profession.
However, some accreditations or additional measures would be useful in high-risk areas, which are determined by the regulators through an evidence and risk-based approach.
The LSB’s statement of policy is likely to be published in the summer. We will communicate the outcome of this and any impact it may have to our members.”