The Legal Services Board (LSB) has demanded an improvement in the leadership of legal regulators after its latest assessment of their performance proved damning.
The regulators are assessed against the same five standards: Regulatory Approach, Authorisation, Supervision, Enforcement, and Well-led. They are rated as providing:
- “Sufficient” assurance (green)
- “Partial” assurance (amber)
- “Insufficient” assurance (red)
To access the full regulatory performance framework and full explanations of the five standards, see page 11 (annex A) of the LSB’s performance report here.
In measuring the regulators against the “Well-led” standard, just two of the eight regulators – the Costs Lawyers Standards Board and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) – were marked as sufficient.
All others were marked as partial except for the Bar Standards Board (BSB), which was marked as insufficient. The LSB said:
“[The BSB] has been unable to provide us with assurance that it has taken ownership of the scale of concerns and the scope of improvement needed nor has the determination to drive the step change in culture, capability, and performance required.”
The BSB was also marked as insufficient in Enforcement and only partially sufficient in all other areas, making it the only regulator to not achieve a “sufficient” rating against any of the five standards.
The SRA was marked as sufficient against all standards except Enforcement. The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), on the other hand, was marked as only partially sufficient against the Well-led, Regulatory Approach, and Enforcement standards, with only Authorisation and Supervision being marked as sufficient.
The assessment identified several common themes including a need for increased transparency, particularly in relation to how regulators make decisions. The LSB said that although some regulators had appropriate policies, they do not appear to be implementing them effectively, as it is difficult from published material to understand the decisions made by regulators and reasons for these decisions.
The LSB added there has progress in how regulators gather evidence about their regulated community and consumers and the impact of their regulatory arrangements on these groups. However, there is still room for improvement in demonstrating how this evidence is used in regulatory work. Some regulators also need to adopt a more proactive approach to supervision and ensure they apply lessons from any supervisory activities to their other regulatory work, they noted.
“Overall, we have seen welcome improvement in some areas from most [regulators], and there are some examples of good practice for everyone to learn from and build on. However, there continue to be areas where further improvement is needed,” said Chris Nichols, Director of Policy and Regulation at the LSB, adding:
“We expect regulators to operate transparently and ensure they have a sufficiently robust evidence base for their work. This is central to being a well-led organisation and ensures others, including the public, can understand how decisions are made and hold the regulator to account. For a number of regulators there is more work to do in this regard.
Over the coming year, we will roll out our new framework for assessing regulators’ performance. We will follow up on the themes and issues identified in this assessment and expect all the regulators to continue working on improving their performance, benefiting the profession and ensuring legal services better meet the needs of society.”