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Calls For Independent Legal Services Regulator

Earlier this month the Legal Services Board (LSB) released its list of proposals for the future of legal regulation, calling for the establishment of a new single regulator for the market.

The LSB insists that any new unified oversight body should be unrelated to any existing regulator and be "organisationally, statutorily and culturally fully independent of both government and representative bodies' vested interests."

In its "blueprint for deregulation," which is a response to the Ministry of Justice's legal services review, the LSB calls for the creation of an entirely new body with its own rule book that must start from a "blank sheet of paper." The rules must be informed but not hindered by current requirements. The new regulator must also decide whether to authorise a legal services provider based on risk and outcomes rather than on professional titles.

The creation of a new regulator would probably take a couple of years, a process that should begin with instant action by both the LSB and other existing regulatory bodies to make sure that new legislation tackles identified risks, the LSB said. In the next two or three years the LSB wants to see streamlining of the legislative framework for the legal market, with rights for all legal services consumers to approach the Legal Ombudsman.

According to LSB chairman David Edmonds, "more not less change is needed" for the legal services market, which must deliver simplification at every level, and he argued that the "labyrinthine"  Legal Services Act 2007 is now living on borrowed time. Although the Act has contributed to more adequate regulation, Edmonds believes that it can be further improved by introducing a simpler framework and a more market-sensitive and independent regulator.