Promoting competition in the legal sector by cutting protections could place vulnerable consumers at risk of exploitation. That was the message from Law Society president Robert Bourns as he addressed regulators on the best way forward for the legal profession.
As the Gazette went to press, Bourns was due to speak at the London School of Economics about the impact of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) study into the legal sector.
Bourns was expected to address:
- The risks of reducing protection for consumers in the name of encouraging competition between providers: ‘We do not support – indeed we oppose – changes that undermine the standing of solicitors (at home and abroad) and risk confusion and detriment to the consumer.’
- The long-running conflict with the SRA about allowing solicitors to work in unregulated entities. This would involve consumers receiving advice from solicitors not bound by client rules, not able to offer legal professional privilege and not offering access to the Legal Ombudsman to raise complaints.
Bourns stressed that none of what he said should be seen as attempt to ‘ossify’ the market and that the Society is open to change in the way the profession works.
Last month the CMA published its report into the legal sector after a year-long study. It said legal services providers should be required to publish information about price to help consumers navigate their way through the market.
The report said the current regulatory system was not a major barrier to competition but may not be sustainable in the long term.