LSB: regulators must increase transparency and robust decision-making
Annual assessment of legal services regulators finds 'room for improvement'
The Legal Services Board (LSB) has published its annual assessment of the performance of eight legal services regulators, including the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Bar Standards Board (BSB).
The regulators are expected to show how they put consumers, the public interest and regulatory objectives at the heart of their work. They are assessed against five standards: regulatory approach, authorisation, supervision, enforcement and well-led.
The BSB received a ‘red’ rating for providing insufficient assurance against the well-led and enforcement standards, and an ‘amber’ rating for partial assurance against the other three.
The SRA had a ‘green’ rating for sufficient assurance in four areas and an ‘amber’ rating for enforcement. Only the Costs Lawyers Standards Board received a ‘green’ rating in all areas.
The assessment, which covered the 12 months up to November 2022, identified several common themes for regulators to address, including a need for increased transparency, particularly in relation to decision-making.
The LSB said although some regulators had appropriate policies in place, they didn’t appear to implement them effectively, as “published material” didn’t give a clear enough explanation of their decisions and reasoning.
While some regulators had made progress in how they gather evidence about their regulated community and consumers, the LSB said there is still “room for improvement in demonstrating how this evidence is used in regulatory work”.
Chris Nichols, director of policy and regulation at the LSB, said: “Through our regulatory assessment, we seek assurance that the regulators are well-led, have an effective approach to regulation, and are explicitly focused on the public interest. Overall, we have seen welcome improvement in some areas from most of them, and there are some examples of good practice for everyone to learn from and build on. However, there continue to be areas where further improvement is needed.”
“We expect regulators to operate transparently and ensure they have a sufficiently robust evidence base for their work,” he continued. “This is central to being a well-led organisation and ensures others, including the public, can understand how decisions are made and hold the regulator to account. For a number of regulators there is more work to do in this regard.
“We… expect all the regulators to continue working on improving their performance, benefiting the profession and ensuring legal services better meet the needs of society.”
The full performance assessment reports are available at legalservicesboard.org.uk.