Approved regulators of legal services should be chaired by lay people to break ‘overly strong ties’ to the professionals they supervise, the super-regulator says today.

A proposal set out for consultation by the Legal Services Board (LSB) says that four years of experience ‘have shown us that the approved regulators are still tied too closely to the individual branches of the profession’. 

The board proposes amending internal government rules to require that the chairs of the boards of regulatory arms of each approved regulator be a lay person. The present rules for the composition of regulatory boards were set by the LSB in 2009. 

The consultation says that a further push for regulatory independence is consistent with the LSB’s vision for the future of regulation set out in its response to the Ministry of Justice last month.

‘It is our view that lay chairs are a likely route to improved outcomes and greater independence not only from the representative bodies, but also from the profession as the regulated community.’

Charles Plant, chair of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, is a solicitor and former litigation partner at a City firm. Lady Deech, chair of the Bar Standards Board, is an academic and non-practising barrister. 

The LSB stresses that its position on lay chairs ‘is in no sense a comment on the commitment to good regulation’ of the existing chairs - rather it is ‘an institutional issue’.

The consultation closes on 19 November.