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Law Society continues to resist independent regulation

'Professional standards of behaviour, conduct and ethics should be the responsibility of the profession'

4 February 2016

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More than 80 per cent of respondents to a survey commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) would like to see the legal professional regulated by an independent regulator.

'This research shows that the public overwhelmingly support independent regulation,' said Paul Philip, CEO of the SRA.

'Public confidence is key and, as this polling shows, people say they will have greater trust in their solicitor if they know they are independently regulated.'

However Catherine Dixon, chief executive of The Law Society, has resisted the idea and reiterated the society's position; a separation will lead to a decline in professional standards.

'We support independent regulation. Regulation is about the minimum regulatory rules which should apply to the whole market to protect consumers,' she said.

'This is very different from professional standards of behaviour, conduct and ethics which should be the responsibility of the profession as they are best placed to raise these standards.'

Dixon believes that instead of creating a separation between service regulators and representative bodies, the goal should be to simplify and redefine what regulation in legal services constitutes.

'Currently the regulatory maze is complex. There are numerous regulators of legal services and there is an opportunity to consolidate to save cost.'

'There is also confusion because currently there is a very broad definition of regulation which includes regulatory rules, professional standards and conduct, ethics, entry into the profession and awarding the professional title.'

She added: 'Paradoxically, the most qualified and trained are the most regulated; the least qualified and trained are not regulated. This is a mistake. There is an opportunity to redefine what regulation should cover to ensure that it is simple and better, and applies to all legal services.'

The treasury announced on 30 November 2015 that a consultation would be launched in the spring of 2016, on 'making legal service regulators independent from their representative bodies', as well as 'removing barriers to entry for alternative business models in legal services.'

The SRA survey also found that 60 per cent of respondents were more likely to have faith in an independently regulated industry.

However, Dixon remains unmoved.

'In order to drive professional standards the responsibility needs to be with the profession.'

She continued: 'This will ensure that the reputation of the profession at home and internationally is secured and that England and Wales remains the jurisdiction of choice and the legal profession is seen to be independent from government, enabling it to uphold the rule of law.'


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Legal services