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SRA board must have lay majority, LSB insists

16 September 2009

The board of the SRA must no longer have a solicitor majority, the Legal Services Board has said in a discussion paper on internal governance rules for the profession.

The SRA board is currently made up of nine solicitors, including the chairman, and seven lay members.

However, the LSB will allow the chairman to be a lawyer, meaning that Charles Plant, former head of litigation at Herbert Smith, will be able to take up the post next year and will not need to be replaced.

Otherwise new lay members will need to be found to comply with the LSB’s proposed rules.

Other regulatory bodies, such as the Bar Standards Board, will also need a lay majority. Eight members of the BSB board are barristers, compared to seven who are lay people, although this includes the chair, legal academic Baroness Ruth Deech.

The LSB has dropped its previous demand that the appointment of regulatory bodies must not be by approved regulators such as the Law Society.

Instead, the LSB proposes that there must be “compelling evidence” that the SRA or the BSB have a strong voice in the process.

In a further compromise, the LSB has said it will permit the Law Society and SRA to share corporate services, such as accommodation, HR, finance and IT.

Des Hudson, Law Society chief executive, said the LSB proposals were a “curate’s egg”, with some parts more appetising than others.

“We are concerned that the LSB has concluded that the regulatory board should have a lay majority,” he said.

“There is a risk that this may undermine the perception of an independent legal profession, particularly overseas.”

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