Legal Services Board sets new expectations to ensure lawyers’ competence throughout their careers
Today (28 July), the Legal Services Board (LSB) publishes a new statutory statement of policy on ongoing lawyers’ competence.
It sets clear outcomes that the legal services regulators should meet to ensure that lawyers have the necessary skills, knowledge and behaviours to provide good quality legal services.
The launch of the new statement is the culmination of extensive policy development since 2019, including a wide public consultation and call for evidence, independent research and cross-sector engagement.
With the new statement, the legal regulators will be required to set standards of competence, get a better understanding of lawyers’ competence, and set new measures to ensure standards are maintained. The statement of policy is designed to be risk-based, outcomes-focused and flexible for the regulators to implement across their regulated communities.
These changes will drive improved consumer outcomes, by protecting consumers from harm and building public trust and confidence in the legal sector.
Before now, there were very few routine or formal measures to ensure lawyers kept their knowledge up-to-date while practising. This is out of step with public expectations and with approaches taken in other professions.
LSB consumer research conducted during the project shows a gap between what the public expects regarding lawyers’ competence and the current checks in place:
- 95% of people believe lawyers should have to demonstrate they remain competent throughout their careers.
- When informed about current arrangements, almost nine in ten people (87%) think legal services regulators should do more to reduce the risk of a lack of competence undermining public trust in the legal system.
The LSB expects regulators to have fully implemented measures by January 2024 and has asked for progress updates by January 2023.
LSB Chair Dr. Helen Phillips said:
“Lawyers have a vital role to play in maintaining the fabric of our democratic society. The public must be able to have confidence that they have the right skills, knowledge and behaviours to protect our interests, enforce our rights and keep us safe.
“The changes introduced today will mean regulators provide greater assurance that their regulated professionals remain competent throughout their careers, not just when they enter the profession.
“Our work in this area concluded that no one can currently say, with any degree of confidence, how often competence issues arise among regulated lawyers.
“Addressing this gap will not just promote the interests of the public and consumers, it should also be in the interests of the profession and the fair and effective administration of justice.
“Each regulator will need to develop an evidence-based approach to implementing our policy that is suitable for their regulated community.
“We will monitor the regulators’ progress and continue to work with the sector to provide consumers with fairer outcomes, stronger confidence and better services.”
The theme of public trust in legal services is central to the LSB’s sector-wide strategy, Reshaping Legal Services, which aims to provide fairer outcomes, stronger confidence and better services. Ensuring lawyers’ competence is key to protecting the interests of consumers and driving greater trust in the legal system.
Kindly shared by Legal Services Board (LSB)
Main photo courtesy of Pixabay