The Legal Services Act has made little difference to standards in the profession, according to a report released today by the Legal Services Board.
The baseline report, published five years since the act, found that indicators such as diversity, quality of service and access to legal services have not shown any improvement.
The report accepted that many of the 17 performance indicators will take more time to show a difference and notes ‘tentative’ positive signs in consumer empowerment, new entrants and developments in branding.
But it concluded that during the period from 2006/07 to 2011/12 the movement towards desired outcomes was ‘largely static’.
On diversity, the report said available data shows entry levels matching the make-up of the population, but there were limitations on career progression for those from black and ethnic minority groups.
When it came to consumer satisfaction, there had been fewer complaints than expected to the new Legal Ombudsman, but this may be because clients are not aware of the procedure.
‘It is difficult to conclude with any confidence that the quality of legal services improved over the 2008/09-2011/12 period,’ added the report.
Confidence in regulators required ‘significant improvement’, despite this being one of the key aspects of the LSA. There has been no major change in the perception of independence of regulation.
When it came to confidence in the law and ethics of the profession, the report again noted a lack of discernable change – not helped by regulators not separating their representative functions from their regulatory role.