‘Extremely prescriptive’ requirements in the process of licensing alternative business structures would be replaced by a more discretionary regime if the super-regulator’s ideas for changes to the Legal Services Act 2007 are taken up.
The Legal Services Board today published proposals for what it called ‘minor changes’ to the act as part of a collective response by regulators to the government's call last October to find more opportunities for deregulation.
The proposals, dated June 2015, have been made public a week after the lord chancellor Michael Gove announced a review of the Legal Services Act in the current parliament.
In a marked change of tone in relations between the LSB and front-line regulators, both tiers have collaborated to produce:
- Joint reports on progress on deregulation and market liberalisation;
- Agreed proposals for minor changes to the Legal Services Act to reduce regulatory burdens;
- Shared knowledge and thinking on alternatives to the handling of client money.
The LSB identified client money as an area of policy where there is instead scope for introducing more choice for practitioners, reducing consumer harm and lightening regulatory burdens.
On ABS licensing, it proposed simplifying and removing 29 pages of prescriptive detail from schedules 11 and 13 of the Legal Services Act. The current regime 'assumes - without evidence - that ABSs are more risky than other types of providers thereby imposing higher costs and burdens on them'.
Sir Michael Pitt, the board's chairman (pictured), said: 'Ministers tasked us with a challenging assignment, namely to identify opportunities for deregulation and to free up practitioners and the market to do what they do best. This work has pinpointed specific proposals which, while modest in scale, would materially reduce burdens and help the regulatory system run more efficiently.'
He added: 'In working together in this way we, the legal services regulators of England and Wales, have shown that we understand and appreciate the context in which we are working. In particular, we recognise the need to seek new ways of delivering access to justice in an environment of on-going pressure on public spending.'
The front-line regulators that took part were: the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Bar Standards Board, CILEx Regulation, the Costs Lawyer Standards Board, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, the Faculty Office, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the Intellectual Property Regulation Board.
Meanwhile, the LSB announced the departure of its chief executive after less than six months in post. Richard Moriarty, who joined the regulator in February, will leave in February next year to become deputy chief executive at the Civil Aviation Authority.