Review of Legal Services Regulation – Will you be left out in the cold?

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In May, this year the Ministry of Justice confirmed that it was not intending to change the structure of legal services regulation. Justice minister Alex Chalk MP said in a parliamentary paper there were ‘no plans’ to review the framework which is built around the Legal Services Act 2007.

This statement was made in spite of the fact that Professor Stephen Mason, UCL, had yet to publish the final report on The Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation. After almost two years of research, three working papers and numerous consultations, it would appear that the MoJ had jumped the gun.

Indeed, the interim report, published in September last year, indicated quite strongly that the regulatory landscape was not fit for purpose and needed a major overhaul.

The Legal Services Act was not intended for today’s innovation within the legal sector and leaves little room to enable new technology to be taken under the regulatory wing. Statutory restrictions have prevented the regulatory framework to adapt to a more diverse legal service provision.

The final report that was published in June this year and sets out a series of proposals, which could provide both short term and long- term reform.

Currently we are in a state of ‘all’ or ‘nothing’, with some legal service providers being left out in the cold, whilst others suffer the burden of ‘Title Based’ regulation opposed to ‘Activity Based’ regulation, which it could  be argued to be eminently more sensible.

The key points for the unregulated providers to take note, is that reform is inevitable, and there is a new call to bring the unregulated into the framework in the short-term.

If the framework is developed in relation to ‘activities’ then will writers and paralegals should think very carefully about being left out, if they do not adjust to new criteria that will undoubtedly be forthcoming in relation to (a) categorising the risk of certain activities (will writing has already been muted to be ‘high risk’) and (b) ensuring that providers of ‘activities’, meet the new standards of competency whatever they may be.

The report does however highlight and more importantly recognise that there is an independent regulator, the Professional Paralegal Register (PPR), who acts as a regulator (non-statutory) for all those offering legal services outside the regulated professions.

The way forward for the unregulated sector is to provide a united front. Organisations, membership bodies, paralegal firms and businesses who are interested in protecting the unregulated sector and ultimately their livelihoods are advised to contact the PPR and become regulated by an independent body. Self-regulation is not likely to meet the standard of external scrutiny that will be needed going forwards.

For more information on becoming a Recognised Membership Body or to be registered on the Professional Paralegal Register please email [email protected]

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