LSB unveils 'ambitious' strategy to tackle 'significant' legal sector challenges
The LSB has called for 'collaboration' across the legal sector to help achieve its strategic aims
The Legal Services Board (LSB) has today published its 2021/22 business plan and a 10-year strategy for legal services in England and Wales, designed to address “significant” levels of “unmet legal need.”
LSB chair, Dr Helen Phillips, said: “While there have been many achievements over the last 10 years of independent regulation, there continue to be significant levels [of] unmet legal need.
“We must seize this moment to drive forward a strategy that promotes the public interest, supports competition and growth, and encourages diversity and inclusion.”
The LSB oversees the regulation of legal services in England and Wales. The business plan and strategy were agreed by its board following a public consultation that ran from 9 December 2020 to 5 February 2021.
The LSB has identified nine areas of focus, which it believes, if addressed, will leaded to "fairer outcomes", "stronger confidence" and "better services". These areas of focus include equality, diversity and inclusion, consumer engagement and facilitating innovation.
The regulator has acknowledged that the challenges are "complex". Phillips described the strategy as “necessarily ambitious” and has called for collaboration to achieve its aims. She commented: “The LSB cannot do this alone – everyone in the sector must work together to pursue our shared interests.
“We are greatly encouraged by the commitment to collaboration that characterised so many responses to our consultation. Only by working together can the sector emerge strongly from the covid-19 pandemic and successfully tackle the challenges it faces.
“If we all work together, we will improve diversity, and the sector will look more like the society it serves. The system will better support innovation and be equipped to respond to the changing market.”
The LSB has "deferred" work on certain aspects of the strategy, including "a statutory review of the reserved legal activities, a review of professional indemnity insurance and work on simple legal products" until "resources permit", but says it "remains committed" to these issues.
The LSB consulted on a budget of £4,098,000 equivalent to around £1 per authorised person. This represents a £175,000 (4.4 per cent) increase on the 2020/21 budget. The LSB said it was "mindful" of the financial pressures the sector is under, particularly following the covid-19 pandemic. However, the board felt this increase was required to "tackle the significant challenges facing the sector".
Responding to the publication of the LSB strategy, Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said its success “will depend on the collective efforts and actions of many stakeholders”.
She added: “The Law Society is keen to play its part, ensuring the wheels of justice are turning and legal services meet people’s needs. It will be key for each actor to be clear about their respective roles in delivery of the strategy to avoid duplication, inefficiencies and confusion.
“We are particularly keen to work closely with the LSB and others to progress diversity and inclusion in the profession and to enhance access to justice through the use of technology and innovation in the legal sector.”
She went on: “The Law Society advised the LSB that its strategy should include built in outcome measures to deliver greater transparency and accountability for its work. We are pleased to see the LSB plans to strengthen its approaches to demonstrating progress, impact and value for money.
“However, given the sector is facing many challenges – the ongoing effect of the covid-19 crisis, backlogs and delays in the justice system plus the new trade agreement with the European Union – we would have liked to see a stronger focus on the promotion of a strong, resilient, internationally respected and independent profession.”
She said the Society will be “closely watching” how the LSB fulfils its core statutory role as an oversight regulator.