Regulating the legal professions
Nicholas Lavender QC, the chairman of the Bar Council, recently criticised the concept of entity-based regulation and suggested it was “simply a fashionable idea amongst regulators”.
The Costs Lawyer Standards Board is currently investigating entity regulation for law costs firms. Entity regulation may well be the solution but I have yet to hear clearly identified the problem which it is meant to solve. In the brave new world, I thought regulation was meant to be evidence based. In the absence of evidence of a meaningful problem, leave well alone.
On the subject of regulation, the LSB, being responsible for overall regulation of the legal professions, has been looking at the cost of legal regulation. Despite being responsible for the issue, they clearly do not know whether, and why, the costs of regulation might be too high. They therefore sent out a survey asking for lawyers to give their feedback. At the conclusion of the survey, the LSB asked whether I would be willing to participate in follow-up research. The LSB, obviously not feeling able to investigate this difficult issue themselves, instructed, at no doubt significant cost, a third party, to undertake this work. I recently received the following email:
“The Legal Service Board (“LSB”) recently conducted an online survey gathering a wide range of views on the cost of regulation for legal services providers in England and Wales. Following that survey, the LSB has commissioned the economic consultancy and research firm ICF Consulting Services (“ICF”) to complete an independent detailed study of the costs of regulation to those providing legal services.
ICF is contacting you because you expressed an interest in participating in this follow-up research when you responded to the LSB online survey. ICF and LSB would be grateful for your cooperation and we hope that you will be able to assist us in this research. We aim for the study to be as representative as possible across the diverse range of legal services providers. Your participation in the study will help to achieve that. We will be distributing a questionnaire on costs in January, followed by a short telephone interview to guide you through these questions in January or early February.
The study is part of a wider programme of LSB work investigating the cost of regulation in legal services and will build on the recent online survey conducted by the LSB. It will add further detail about the cost of regulation and allow more detailed comparisons across the sector and between different types of regulatory cost. In due course this will contribute to practical steps to reduce the cost of regulation.
The full study will be published in June 2015. However, in addition to the information in the study report, ICF will provide each study participant with their own bespoke report outlining how their regulatory costs compare with other study participants’ costs. These will comprise a short report comparing costs with relevant others providing legal services.
Please be assured that any information provided will be treated as confidential by ICF. It has strict confidentiality provisions in its contract with the LSB. Neither the LSB nor your frontline regulator will have access to any data that can be attributed to you or your business. In both the study report and bespoke reports, all cost information other than the participants’ own will be anonymised and aggregated, such that no information is revealed about individually identifiable entities or individual providers. The questionnaire is being undertaken strictly for research purposes and all responses will remain anonymous. ICF will use your contact details for no other purpose beyond this study.
ICF will be running workshops in early January to test the questionnaire and materials that will be used to gather information during this study. We would greatly appreciate volunteers to participate in these workshops. The workshops will help to minimise the demands placed on study participants’ time and refine questionnaire guidance to help participants understand how to complete the questionnaire.
Please contact us to confirm your interest in participating in this study by close Monday 15 December. Please also indicate whether you are willing to participate in a workshop. These will take place in London in early January and would involve no more than half a day of your time testing study materials, so that we can make them as clear and relevant to you as possible.
We thank you in advance for your participation to the study.
Senior Managing Consultant, ICF International”
The consulting agency instructed to establish if and why the costs of legal regulation are too high obviously did not feel qualified to answer the question. They have therefore asked busy lawyers to “volunteer” for a half day workshop to assist in the formulation of questionnaires to send back out to other busy lawyers to complete.
I trust that no stone will go unturned to try to get to the bottom of this issue. Until then it will remain a complete mystery as to what sort of unnecessary work busy lawyers are being asked to undertake that may be contributing to excessive regulatory costs.