Sunday, September 22, 2013

Malodorous Regulation and Why It Should Be Reformed....

(Thanks to Ben Whishaw in Perfume)

I was asked to provide a comment on Dave Edmonds call for a single regulator for legal services by the Solicitors Journal. This is what I said (only you get an extra video in this version):

During a recent TEDx talk in Sydney a UNSW law lecturer friend of mine, Justine Rogers, said that one should introduce concepts that reminded the audience of something elusive, like a perfume, such as “Complexity”.

If ever there was a pervasive odour around the regulation of legal services in Britain it is complexity. On the basis to get where we want to go, we wouldn’t start from here—the market for legal services is a mess.

The Ministry of Justice regulation review is needed. Why? Because the Legal Services Act 2007 is the bastard child arising out of the turf wars between the warring factions of the legal profession. And six years later these wars are still being fought, by profession and regulator.

We have introduced a system of such startling complexity that it is a lawyers’ delight. Even though it is outcomes focused and principles based, little agreement exists as to how it should be implemented. At a conference I argued that the UK system would lead the world. Another speaker expressed incredulity at the labyrinthine procedures that any would be-ABS had to go through to get a licence. In Australia, he said, incorporated legal practices were granted licences quickly. The key vetting was done afterwards to ensure it followed proper practices. To become an ABS in the UK is difficult, complex, expensive and could take as long as a trip to Mars. This is not what the “new” regulatory system was set up to do.

One of the drives of the Legal Services Board is to increase competition in the market and also to simplify the provision of services. Within the constraints of the LSA there is only so much the LSB can do. But trying to herd a bevy of regulators towards a new pasture is hard.

Time then to simplify and remove complexity. Yes, we should move to a single regulator for legal services. And furthermore we should move towards a single legal services supplier. Let’s scrap solicitors, barristers and the other categories and go for a single supplier with accreditation and specialisation. Perhaps consumers will begin to understand the market.


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