LSB launches consultation on new standards for regulators on lawyers' ongoing competence checks
The super-regulator has proposed new requirements for the profession's regulators
Following LSB research which showed a gap between public expectations and the competence checks currently in place for lawyers, super-regulator the Legal Services Board (LSB) has launched a consultation on a draft statutory statement of policy on the outcomes regulators should pursue to ensure legal professionals are competent.
The LSB said the draft statement is designed to be “risk-based, outcome-focused and flexible” for the application of the nine legal regulators. It said it will ensure the public and consumers can have confidence that legal practitioners remain competent throughout their careers and have the necessary and up-to-date skills, knowledge, attributes and behaviours to provide good quality legal services.
The LSB said ensuring lawyers’ competence is key to protecting the interests of consumers and driving greater trust in the legal system. The LSB’s sector-wide strategy, Reshaping Legal Services, has a strong focus on public confidence.
There are currently few formal measures to ensure ongoing competence post-qualification. The LSB’s research found 95 per cent of people surveyed believed lawyers should be required to demonstrate they on-going competence. 87 per cent thought legal services regulators should do more to reduce the risk of a lack of competence undermining public trust in the legal system.
The research also compared the legal profession with other professions, and reported there was a greater focus on assessing and understanding levels of competence in other professions.
The draft statement states that regulators will be expected to:
· Set standards of competence that those they regulate should have at the point of authorisation and throughout their careers
· Regularly assess and understand the levels of competence within the profession and identify areas where competence may need to be improved
· Make appropriate interventions to ensure standards of competence are maintained across the profession
· Take suitable remedial action when standards of competence are not met by individual authorised persons.
LSB chair, Dr Helen Phillips, said: “Lawyers help to keep our society safe, protect our liberty and enforce our rights. Consumers should be able to trust in the competence of legal service providers, not just when they qualify but throughout their careers. The status quo is not enough to protect the public interest.
“We want to support regulators to adopt a proportionate and risk-based approach, and develop an approach that is fit for purpose for the professions they regulate, while ensuring a minimum standard of ongoing competence requirements across the sector.”
The consultation closes on 7 March 2022.