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SRA chairman suggests single regulator for legal profession

11 April 2011

Charles Plant, chairman of the SRA, has suggested that at some point in the future there should be a single regulator for the legal profession.

Plant said it would take out “all the expense and duplication” of having eight separate regulators under the Legal Services Board.

“Should there be one regulator for the legal profession?” Plant asked at a LegalFutures conference on The Future for Lawyers this morning. “At some point someone has to address this issue.”

Plant said the SRA was doing all it could to cut costs but “the complexities of the current regime significantly add to the expense”.

He went on: “Is it sensible to have eight regulators regulating the same activity with the LSB making sure we all behave?”

“Regulatory activity and costs are duplicated because there are eight of us. We have a panel to consult consumers. The LSB has a panel to consult consumers. All this duplication you are paying for.”

Plant described the joint training review currently being carried out by the SRA, BSB and ILEX as “the most important for 30 or 40 years” and said he hoped it would lead to “common education and training” for solicitors and barristers.

“It would facilitate movement between the two and avoid specialisation in the early years,” he said.

However, Plant said he was not in favour of fusion of the two branches of the profession.

Earlier, Baroness Ruth Deech, chairwoman of the Bar Standards Board, said she did not believe that the legal education of barristers was “unfit for purpose”.

She said the current system produced “some of the most admired barristers in the world” and had been overhauled three times in the last three years.

However, she was “deeply worried” about the thousands of young people being drawn to the law. “They’re flocking in and there are no jobs for them,” she said.

Like Plant, she hoped the joint training review would give people more flexibility to move from one side of the profession to the other, but was not in favour of fusion.

She added that the BSB might develop a form of entity regulation for advocates’ firms, which she referred to as “barrister-flavoured” regulation.

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