The oversight regulator of legal services is to survey the profession to test what it calls the ‘hypothesis’ that regulation is too costly.
The Legal Services Board will open the survey on Monday for all members of the profession to get a definite idea of costs faced by legal services providers.
In an introduction to the investigation, the LSB cited complaints from the Law Society, Bar Council and City of London Law Society that regulation is too costly.
The scope will include direct costs such as practising certificate fees and indirect costs of complying with regulation.
The survey will also examine the cost of exiting the market and successor practice rules.
‘Effective, well-designed regulation plays a vital role in protecting consumers, businesses and employees,’ said the LSB.
‘However, some regulations may be unnecessary, overcomplicated or out of date. These regulations can waste providers’ and consumers’ time and money, and damage economic growth.’
The survey – as well as interviews with some lawyers – will be online and open to providers of all types of firms and practice area.
The LSB will combine the results with the findings of an external cost accountant to compare legal regulation costs with those in other sectors.
The aim then is to find common areas where approved regulators can reduce their costs.
A survey of solicitors last year found 58% believed the burden of regulation was harmful to their business, a rise from 42% in 2009.
In its response to the government’s call for evidence on regulation last year, the Law Society said the complexities of the current landscape were not helping legal services professionals in a market where forces were impacting revenues and driving up operating costs.
An LSB spokesman told the Gazette that the initial survey will be done in-house and external consultants brought in after a tender process. He could not reveal the exact cost of the exercise, but said the work would be the main research project for this year.
In 2013/14 the LSB allocated £218,000 to research costs, down from £445,000 in 2012/13.
In total in 2014/15, £104.9m will be collected from PC fees – a decrease of 17% from £116.8m collected in 2013/14. Individual fees will fall from £384 to £320.
The LSB's survey is available here.