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All legal services should be regulated, SRA says

11 November 2011

The SRA has called for all legal services to be regulated. In its response to the LSB’s consultation paper on the regulation of will writers, the SRA said the decisions made at the time of the Legal Services Act in 2007 had resulted in a “significantly unsatisfactory system of regulation”.

The regulator said parliament’s decision not to review the list of reserved activities in 2007 could be viewed either as a “completely correct political judgment” or a “missed opportunity to undertake the necessary complete, radical and once-in-a-generation overhaul that was necessary”.

This had resulted in a “patchwork quilt” of regulation which did not necessarily serve the citizen’s interest.

In particular the regulator said problems for consumers were:

  • lack of clarity for consumers about which legal services are regulated and which are not, despite consumer expectation that all professional services were regulated;
  • lack of consistent consumer protection and redress, not only between regulated and unregulated legal services but between services regulated by different regulators;
  • lack of focus on quality, standards and ethical behaviour across all legal services, leading to the risk of a failure to get things right first time for consumers and, therefore, an unnecessarily heavy reliance on redress; and
  • increased regulatory cost in the system (which is ultimately borne by consumers) as a result of the multiplicity of regulators and level of resource required to manage the interactions between them.

Antony Townsend, chief executive of the SRA, said: “We believe the starting point for this review should be that all legal services should be regulated in the public interest and in the interests of consumers, rather than starting from a more narrowly-based review of individual activities as proposed by the LSB.

“However, we accept that there is a case in the short-term for the extension of reserved legal activities to specific activities such as will writing, while a wider review is undertaken.”

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