The lord chancellor has told the Legal Services Board’s chief that its business plan should be aiming towards abolition, thereby removing one of ‘too many layers’ of legal regulation.
Chris Grayling told the CILEx presidential dinner in London last night that there is a need to simplify regulation - he had been persuaded ‘without, it has to be said, too much difficulty – that there is too much of it’.
‘It is too time-consuming and intrusive, particularly for smaller firms,’ he said.
Grayling wants a ‘simpler, easier to understand’ and ‘proportionate’ regulatory framework that promotes growth and innovation while protecting consumers.
‘There are too many layers of regulation,’ said Grayling. He said he had told the LSB chair Sir Michael Pitt that ‘during his time at the LSB, success means creating an environment where that organisation is not necessary in the long term’.
‘This will not happen overnight but I am clear that this should be the direction of travel,’ said Grayling.
In the meantime, he said he has asked the legal profession about ‘quick wins’ that could make a real difference now as well as in the long term.
In a wide-ranging speech Grayling recognised the challenges faced by the legal profession, in particular to smaller firms, due to the combination of legal aid cuts, the burden of regulation and increasing competition.
He defended his position over legal aid cuts and judicial review, denying he was making changes because he was a non-lawyer who did not ‘understand, respect or care about’ the legal system.
‘Nothing could be further from the truth,’ he said, stressing that many of the changes, particularly in relation to legal aid, had been initiated by his predecessor, ‘a distinguished QC’, Ken Clarke.
Not having a legal background, he said, enabled him to ‘look afresh’ at the issues facing the justice system.
On the plight of the junior bar, Grayling said he had ‘listened carefully to stories of young advocates fighting for scraps of business in the magistrates' courts, and of some deciding to abandon their profession because it is just too financially tough’.
He insisted their problems were not due to the battle over high-cost case fees, which he said did not affect magistrates’ court work, but because there are ‘too many people chasing too little work’.
Court processes, he said, which have become ‘more involved and more complex’ needed to be simplified, with some work taken out of the courtroom through better use of technology.
He recognised as ‘obvious’ the challenges presented to the family courts by the legal aid cuts.
In response, he said, the ministry had provided funding to assist litigants in person and will ‘very soon’ start a pilot scheme to provide DNA, drugs and alcohol testing in private family cases.