Law Society calls for single legal regulator

Topics: Law Society activity,Regulation and compliance

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The Law Society has today called for a single regulator of legal services and statutory protection for the ‘lawyer’ title, ahead of a government consultation on reforming the 2007 Legal Services Act.

In what amounts to a counterstrike to Solicitors Regulation Authority lobbying on the terms of a potential split with Chancery Lane, the Society also warns that the spectre of state control risks jeopardising the envied global status of England and Wales as jurisdiction of choice.

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City and commercial firms could move staff and operations overseas if the SRA becomes a creature of government and the profession’s ‘unique role’ in upholding the rule of law is compromised, the Society believes.

In an article for today’s Gazette titled ‘The end of our profession?’, chief executive Catherine Dixon says: ‘Freedom from government intervention is an essential cornerstone of our justice system and underpins the rule of law.

‘Any suggestion that government is able to fetter our independence will seriously jeopardise our global standing and threaten the huge contribution that solicitors make to our economy.’

Though the SRA is operationally independent and its board has a lay majority, the regulator remains part of the Law Society group. The representative and regulatory arms are jointly funded through the practising certificate fee. However, the SRA is pushing strongly for a full divorce on terms that could turn it into a state agency accountable to the lord chancellor.

The Society stresses today that it welcomes the review and supports independent regulation. But in order to protect the public and ensure fair competition, it argues, this must mean ‘holistic’ regulation of all providers of legal services by a single regulator.

At present, Dixon points out, ‘people who are the most qualified and trained [solicitors and barristers] are the most regulated, and people who may not have any legal qualifications or training are the least regulated’. In tandem with this change the title of ‘lawyer’ should be defined and protected, the Society believes, to ensure that only legal professionals – solicitors and barristers – can use it.

In calling for one regulator to replace the current 11 (including the Legal Services Board), Chancery Lane argues that the SRA has assumed powers that were never envisaged in the Clementi report which gave rise to the act. These include powers to set entry standards and professional standards, and to award the title of ‘solicitor’.

All of these powers should be returned to Chancery Lane and the profession, the Society argues.

Dixon adds: ‘We are not aware of any mature jurisdiction in the world where the legal profession is regulated by, and professional title is granted by, either the state or a state-controlled body.’

The current arrangement also runs counter to what happens in other professions such as chartered accountancy, where the professional body (ICAEW) awards the title and sets entry standards, the Society adds.

Readers' comments (39)


  • I suppose Ms Dixon must do everything possible to keep the Law Soc from folding and the executives there losing their massive salaries...

    I, for one, cannot see any value in my £250 (I suspect it's more) part of my PC fee going to 113 CL...

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  • Best of luck with that one!
    The term "lawyer" has no true meaning whatsoever, as in Alice "words mean what I say they mean"....
    As for State control, there can be no better example than inviting the Lord Chancellor to attend a meeting of the Council which then supinely votes to destroy the profession. No formal control was needed.
    The Law Society has "sat too long for any good you have done, in the name of God, go!" It would not be missed.

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  • I can't control my Insurance and Banking 'Members' .......

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  • I think this is absolutely right. It is important that all legal services are fairly regulated and I couldn't agree more that regulation should be different to professional standards. I am therefore supportive.

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  • Not sure that I understand how Ms Dixon has reached the conclusion that an independent SRA would be state controlled. This sounds like scare-mongering to me. I'm also not sure why TLS is so worried about having t stand on its won feet - after all in the medics' world, the BMA is arguably much more powerful and influential than the GMC.

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  • I agree there should be a single regulator which would give a fair and level playing field, cost savings and clarity for clients(consumers). The representative bodies remain and can concentrate on that.

    As far as the term lawyer is concerned may I suggest this applies to qualified lawyers - barristers, soloicitors, chartered legal executives and licensed conveyancers. It would then be clear whether the person conducting legal business was qualified (a lawyer) or unqualified (paralegals etc etc)

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  • It could be called something like, oh, I dunno, "The Law Society."

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  • It is high time that the public was protected from the closed ranks of the Law Society.

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  • Good to see The Law Society catch up to what solicitors have been saying for the last few years.

    Having the same legal services subject to different rules from different regulators is ridiculous. A single regulator that ensures that solicitors, barristers, legal executives, licensed conveyancers, and even God help me now accountants, all have to play by the same rules is the only way to liberalise the legal market while maintaining fair competition between them and safeguarding professional standards.

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  • If I were to have to select one issue which needs sorting out, Mrs. Dixon, it would be PII and in particular run-off cover. Then there would be The Legal Services Act 2007, all those initiatives on racial and sexual equality and all the rest of it.

    Yes, there's quite a lot for you to be getting on with. However, I fear you are getting on with it all just too late. By the time things 'go out for consultation' the decision has already been taken. The 'consultation' is just, well, window dressing.

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