Regulators to be judged on improving consumer experience
Legal Services Board launches regulatory standards consultation inviting respondents to ensure framework is â€˜fit for purpose'
Greater price transparency and better information for consumers when choosing legal services will be used as barometers to monitor regulators' performance under new proposals put forward by the Legal Services Board.
The super-regulator has launched a consultation into a new and improved performance framework that legal services frontline regulators will be expected to adhere to. It will focus on four key areas: standards, evidence gathering, assessment and grading.
The move follows the Competition and Markets Authority study into the legal services market last December. Now the LSB wants the eight regulators to consider four high-level outcomes when developing their regulatory arrangements to ensure they meet minimum standards.
In particular, the regulators will be expected to push for improvement in transparency standards in terms of price and service, availability of redress, the provider's regulatory status, and comparison of providers.
They should also promote the use of independent feedback forms to help consumers understand the quality of service offered by competing firms and also make better information available to assist consumers when they are identifying their legal needs.
Finally, they should facilitate the development of a dynamic intermediary market through making data more accessible to comparison tools and other intermediaries.
The regulatory approach is just one of five function-based and outcomes-focused standards a regulator's performance will be assessed against. The others are: authorisation, supervision, enforcement, and governance and leadership.
In regard to the other key areas, the LSB said there was an opportunity to be more systematic in their approach to gathering evidence about regulators' performance and to utilise an ongoing approach.
It plans to do this by formalising evidence gathering methods such as collecting performance managing datasets, obtaining third-party feedback, making informal information requests, and reviewing available information on regulator's websites.
The oversight regulator also found that the assessment process could be more proportionate, risk-based, and targeted. A three-part process was proposed to achieve this, which included ongoing monitoring, internal annual assessments, and benchmark assessments.
In proposed changes to the grading scale, the LSB is attempting to more accurately reflect the regulators' current performance rather than the progress the regulators' have made and intend to make. If regulators don't meet minimum standards they will fall into one or two categories and the LSB will either: give them a chance to address areas of concern or, after fully considering the circumstances, take action.
LSB chief executive, Neil Buckley (pictured), said: 'The LSB's work to hold legal services regulators' to account for their performance is key to delivering public confidence in legal services and is a core statutory function. Through it, we drive improvement in the eight regulators' performance and encourage them to become more effective and efficient.'
Buckley said the super-regulator had engaged extensively with regulators and the Legal Services Consumer Panel during a pre-consultation stage and is now seeking broader views on the framework.
'We are inviting views from anyone with an interest in this issue,' said Buckley. 'We are seeking responses on whether the elements, and the framework as a whole, are fit for purpose, and will achieve the intended aim of effective scrutiny and oversight of the regulators' performance.'
The consultation closes on Monday 25 September 2017.
Matthew Rogers is a reporter at Solicitors Journal