LSB chief vows to remain active oversight regulator
The Legal Services Board has not engaged in “mission creep” or sought to “micro-manage” frontline regulators, David Edmonds (pictured) has said as he set out his intention to remain an active regulator.
Refuting once again accusations that his organisation had been overly interventionist, Edmonds said in his preface to the LSB’s 2012 annual report that these were “wholly inaccurate”.
The LSB chairman emphasised that his board’s statutory responsibilities only represented a comparatively small fraction of the Legal Services Act – “only three of the Act’s nine sections” – and that regardless of intention or resources there was “little scope” in the Act for the oversight regulator to extend its ambit.
But, he continued, “oversight does not mean sitting and watching and reacting. For me oversight means involvement and intervention, where necessary, and leadership in thinking about new ideas and directions.”
Edmonds further justified the LSB’s approach on the combined premises in the Act to further the interests of consumers and address the failures of self-regulation.
“Let us not forget,” he said, “that we are operating in a sector where self-regulation was deemed by parliament to have failed, and which no longer convinced the public that it had their interest at its core
He went on to stress the LSB’s independence from the Ministry of Justice, to which it is accountable, saying there were proper safeguards.
“We have a good working relationship with the MoJ and that is essential,” he said. “But I do not ask ministers for agreement to the policies that we adopt; nor, as a board, have we ever faced pressure to take action that we perceived to be unreasonable.”
The board’s work, he said, was “proportionate and the right response to the specific challenge thrown up by the legal services sector and its unique constitutional position”.
Showing comity towards the frontline regulators, Edmonds praised the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers for using the opportunity of becoming licensing authorities for ABS to “reform radically their regulatory practice”.
He called for greater innovation in the legal services market, the removal of “detailed rulebooks when they can no longer be justified” and the need to “liberate the creativity of both current legal businesses and new entrants”.
Also on Edmonds’ list of objectives were: improving access to justice through the development of new service models, better regulatory results, frontline regulators free from influence by professional bodies, an effective complaint system, and an independent, diverse and effective profession.
Echoing comments made last month, he said he also said he would report back within a year on “quality improvements in the area of advocacy”, expressing the wish that “the time-consuming and sometimes painful birth pangs of this project are now behind us”.