The Ministry of Justice has indicated that there is no chance of anything other than minor reforms of legal services regulation for now.
Deputy director of UK legal services Claire Hayes told a conference today that the only immediate plans for the department were to look at unregulated services. Hayes said the priority now was ‘small-scale adaptions that can build on the system we have’. She insisted there was no prospect of ‘blowing things up and starting again’.
Discussion about the suitability of the Legal Services Act 2007 has increased in recent months following the conclusion of a review by Stephen Mayson, honorary professor of law at University College, London. His report in June called for a register of all providers of legal services, as well as a single legal regulator and a single point of entry for consumer complaints.
Hayes said the MoJ had taken a great interest in Mayson’s findings and recommendations and agreed with him on some aspects.
Speaking at today’s virtual Westminster Legal Policy Forum, she added: ‘The changes he proposed for the long term constitute some very substantial changes to the current framework. We agree that is not something to be contemplated right now. We agree that in the current circumstances we need to avoid further substantial disruption of the regulation of legal services.’
The MoJ is, however, looking with ‘considerable interest’ at increasing the scope of redress for consumers using unregulated providers. This would allow for people to perhaps take complaints about their unregulated lawyer to the Legal Ombudsman, which they cannot currently do. Discussions are also ongoing about the feasability of providing a register of unregulated providers.
Speaking at the same conference, the MoJ’s head of UK legal services Peter Rowlinson said: ‘We can see the problems [that current restrictions] might be causing.
‘If you use wills as an example, it doesn’t seem to make sense at a fundamental level that a regulated professional has a regulator and professional indemnity insurance and the means to go to an ombudsman if the consumer has a problem. [Whereas] an unregulated provider has neither the regulator nor the insurance nor access to an ombudsman. We are concerned about consumer redress.’