The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has urged the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) to include advocacy and rights of audience in its study into the legal market.
The CMA announced last month plans to examine concerns about the affordability and quality of legal services in England and Wales. The watchdog said it would decide within six months whether it intends to refer the market for a more in-depth investigation.
Within its initial study the CMA is looking to carry out case studies on employment law, will writing and probate and is considering a third study on commercial law.
But the BSB said that while it largely supported the chosen case studies, it warned that they may not generate much insight into advocacy services.
The regulator said: ‘We would stress the need to consider the market for advocacy services and rights of audience in particular, whether as part of a case study or as part of the wider review. This is a segment of the market for which specialist providers are often sought, particularly in the higher courts.’
It suggested that the CMA could add family law advocacy as another study, saying this is an area that has been affected by cuts in public funding and where clients may be particularly vulnerable.
Supporting the plan for a market review, the BSB also admitted that regulators could do more to understand the needs of consumers and communicate better with them.
It said that general consumer awareness of redress mechanisms is low, though it stressed that barristers are required to inform their clients of their chambers complaint process and of their right to claim to the Legal Ombudsman.
But it said that the area where there is unlikely to be adequate redress is in the provision of services by unregulated individuals.