Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

What legal services should be regulated?

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In the book, in Chapter 9, I draw a distinction between legal services and lawyers’ services. Under the Legal Services Act 2007 there are a certain number of functions which are called ‘reserved legal activities’, which must only be undertaken by professionally qualified lawyers or by people who are members of other groups who are authorised to provide such services. These include the conduct of litigation and probate activities.

During the summer of 2011, the Legal Services Board launched a consultation on whether other legal services provided by people not members of the legal profession should also be regulated.

The Board noted that ‘there are two main types of legal service regulation. Some lawyers are regulated in respect of all their legal work by virtue of their professional membership and accompanying title – the best known of which are solicitors and barristers. Others are authorised by a legal services regulator to undertake one or more of the six specific “reserved legal activities” which brings them within the scope of legal services regulation’.

They also noted that one consequence of this is that ‘there is no specific legal services regulation of people who neither have a protected title nor offer any of the reserved activities. Will-writing is perhaps the best known of the services frequently undertaken by unregulated providers, but there are many others including many forms of general legal advice. In such cases, consumer protection arises only from general consumer law and voluntary schemes of regulation, rather than any other statutory requirements: importantly, consumers have no automatic right of redress from the Legal Ombudsman’.

The reason for this is that regulation of legal services has grown up in a piecemeal fashion. There have been no overarching guiding principles.

The Board sought views on whether and to what extent there needed to be a further raltionalisation of the scope of the regulatory framework for legal services to enhance consumer protection, particular as the arrival of alternative business structures may result in the emergence of rather different forms of legal service delivery.

The Consultation exercise has just closed and no doubt it will be some time before the Board comes to a final view. To read their Consultation Paper go to http://www.legalservicesboard.org.uk/what_we_do/consultations/open/pdf/enhancing_consumer_protection_reducing_restrictions_final_28072011x.pdf

For the comments of the Solicitors Regulatory Authority go to http://www.sra.org.uk/sra/news/press/SRA-calls-for-all-legal-services-to-be-regulated.page

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Written by lwtmp

November 16, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Posted in Chapter 9

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