Interim Report Suggests Overhaul Of Reserved Legal Activities

A diverse set of suggested reforms into legal services will look to increase the role of the Legal Ombudsman (LeO), widen the forms of regulatory entry to include unregulated practitioners and rethink reserved legal activities.

The interim ‘Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation,’ completed by the Centre for Ethics at University College London and chaired by professor Stephen Mayson, described reservation as archaic and ‘anachronistic.’

The report has emphasised that whilst there is a case for reservation of legal activities for ‘certain public interest or high-risk legal activities’ such as the conduct of litigation, there was a case for debating other issues currently reserved to those in a regulatory body.

Mayson’s report concluded that issues like probate and the administration of oaths could be completed by unregulated practitioners in the future.

Whilst the report claimed ‘the link between the reserved activities and authorisation through professional titles creates inflexibility and constraints in the current regulatory framework,’ it also found that the move from title-based regulation to activity-based regulation was complicated.

Title-based regulation was said to increase the burden and cost on activities that do not need to be regulated which in turn leads to higher consumer prices. Therefore, reevaluating the legal processes in need of reservation would be in the best interests of the consumer.

Conversely, the regulatory gap has been seen to cause potential harm to consumers when some legal practices are unregulated whilst regulated practitioners are beholden to regulatory standards. Mayson argued that this puts regulated practitioners at a competitive disadvantage.

To bridge this gap, the report suggested that all legal services should ‘fall within the regulatory framework, irrespective of who provides them,’ and that alternative frameworks or forms of regulatory entry should apply to those without a professional legal title.

The report also believed that the Legal Ombudsman should widen their services so that all legal service practitioners, even those without a professional legal title, should be held accountable by LeO in order for all legal service consumers to have the opportunity to seek official redress; a process which would align ‘Consumer expectations and regulatory reality.’

Matthew Hill, Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board, said: ‘

“Stephen’s report is a thorough and thoughtful analysis of a complex set of issues. It touches on a number of key areas that are of interest to us, and on which we look forward to engaging further in due course.”

What do these suggested reforms mean for those providing legal services in Wills, Probate and Estate Planning?

Read the full interim report here.

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