This website uses cookies

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. By using our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy

Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

'Go compare' for legal services: LSB proposes single digital register of legal professionals

'Go compare' for legal services: LSB proposes single digital register of legal professionals


'Principal benefit' of single digital register is 'likely' the provision of data to enable the development of comparison tools

At a board meeting this week (8 June 2021), the Legal Services Board (LSB) explored proposals relating to digital registers of legal professionals and businesses. It was decided its priority would be the creation of a single digital register of authorised persons, with the “principal benefit… likely to be providing the raw materials that will enable digital comparison tools to grow”.

In 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) conducted a market study which recommended regulators explore the creation of a single register. The following year, a data mapping exercise was undertaken across all regulators and a “joint technical piece of work” recommended to build on the data mapping. However, regulators decided it was not the right time to undertake this work.

Regulators did, however, develop a ‘consumer trust’ product, available via Legal Choices. The product scans participating regulators’ registers and provides disciplinary data to users. Regulators plan to explore expansion of the range of data covered to include non-disciplinary data to offer single register functionality.

In its 2020 report, the CMA again highlighted the lack of a single source of information on regulated entities and professionals and recommended the development of a single digital register, spearheaded by the LSB.

It also recommended the Ministry of Justice create or empower a regulator to create a mandatory register of unregulated providers. This recommendation came off the back of Professor Stephen Mayson’s June 2020 Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation, which suggested the LSB operate the register and that registrants be brought under the jurisdiction of the Legal Ombudsman.

In papers published ahead of the LSB’s June board meeting, the LSB summarised all available options for consideration, including the creation of a single digital register of authorised persons, a mandatory register of unregulated businesses and its statutory power to establish voluntary arrangements.

The paper says the “simplest solution for consumers” would be a combined register of regulated and unregulated providers.

However, in its board meeting, it was agreed that a single digital register of authorised persons would be the LSB’s immediate key focus.

Dr Helen Phillips said in a blog following the meeting: “We saw this as potentially strengthening a range of other initiatives that would have benefits for consumers, including better information on quality. We noted, however, that any specific proposals should be accompanied by a full analysis of value for money.

“We also recognised that the prospect of the primary legislation needed to establish a register of unregulated providers – one of the CMA’s recommendations – is limited, but noted that our work on mapping the unregulated sector would be an important contributor to any future decision by Government regarding this recommendation.”

The pre-meeting paper suggested the “principal benefit” would be regulators ability “to provide the raw material for use by digital comparison tools and innovators developing other products”.  

So, does this suggest lawyers could find themselves on a regulated persons register, available for comparison with their peers in the style of a ‘go compare’ car insurance comparison tool? It seems we need to watch this space.