Event: Regulatory Futures 2021: trust and change in uncertain times

Thursday 9 September 2021

London, UK, 30 Euston Square

Join us in London for our face-to-face conference exploring the future of regulation. Offering insights from different sectors – from utilities to education, financial to legal services – this free event is for anyone interested in discussing how we regulate to meet the future needs of society.

Who is speaking?


  • Rageh Omaar, Broadcaster and Journalist


  • Anna Bradley, SRA Chair

Confirmed speakers include

  • Neil Baytone, Head of Partnerships, TrustPilot
  • Matthew Gill, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Government
  • Stefan Hunt, Chief Data and Digital Officer, Competition and Markets Authority
  • Polly MacKenzie, Chief Executive, Demos
  • Mick McAteer, Founder and Co-director, Financial Inclusion Centre
  • Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation, Office of Students
  • Paul Philip, Chief Executive, SRA
  • Professor Suzanne Rab, Barrister; member of Council of the Regulatory Policy Institute; Professor of Commercial Law, Practice Chair, Brunel University; Law Lecturer, University of Oxford and Visiting Professor, Imperial College, London

Topics covered

Explore topics with expert speakers in interactive sessions including:

  • Regulating in uncertain times – in which direction is the regulatory pendulum moving?
  • Innovation and technology – will new technology improve access to services or risk leaving some people behind?
  • Changing behaviours – how should we respond to changing consumer expectations and the impacts of the pandemic?
  • Diversity – what role should regulators play in promoting diverse workplaces?

The event will also offer significant networking opportunities with key thinkers and decision makers across the regulatory and policy landscape.

Who is this event aimed at?

  • Regulators
  • Policy makers
  • Thinktanks
  • Academics
  • Legal professionals

Subject to government guidance at the time, this will be a physical, face-to-face event. Attending in person will give you the best opportunity to interact, network and create new and useful professional contacts.

SRA to increase AML checks on law firms

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has announced that they will be increasing checks on law firms after it found that 21 percent of the 400 firms consulted were not complying with anti-money laundering regulations.  The majority of firms were using templates and these firms’ risk assessments were generally of lower quality as firms appeared to take a ‘copy and paste’ approach without thinking through the specific risks and issues faced by their firm.

In light of these findings the SRA has updated its warning notice, provided additional support and guidance and plans to carry out an extensive programme of firm visits.

Read more about this story…

ICLR Conference 2019

ICLR 2019: Changing societies, changing professions, changing regulation

Thursday 5 – Friday 6 September 2019

Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian

This year’s ICLR conference will focus on the the theme of change: How the demands that society has of the legal sector are changing and how the legal profession is itself changing (in terms of its composition, what it does and how it does it). The conference will provide us with the opportunity to reflect on what all of this means for those regulating the legal sector.

ICLR members are now invited to submit suggestions and ideas for the programme. Please contact us for more information.

2018 Conference Preview: Trust & Transparency

Trust and Transparency – Friday 5th October


To present the challenges presented by the expectation of members of the public who use legal services around the trust in the way in which those services are regulated and the transparency allied to that including the challenges presented in the legal services market around transparency of price.


Neil Buckley is Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board for England and Wales – he was appointed as their Chief CEO in January 2016 and is also a member of their board. He was previously Director of Investigations at Ofcom. Neil is a solicitor who has a Master’s degree in Regulation from the London School of Economics

Rebecca Marsh was appointed Chief Ombudsman at the Legal Ombudsman Service in January 2018. Prior to joining LeO, she was Deputy Ombudsman and Executive Director of Operations and Investigations at the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. She has an extensive career in complaints handling and ombudsman services

Philip Yelland is the Executive Director of Regulation at the Law Society of Scotland and prior to holding that role was Director of the Complaints Investigation team at the Society, whom he joined in 1990. He is a qualified solicitor.

Michal Masior is a member of the bar council in Warsaw, and PhD candidate in Warsaw School of Economics. He has co-authored two reports for the European Commission on the effects of the deregulation of professions and the quality of legal services and also co-authored and edited a report on the regulation of legal services in the selected countries (in Europe and the U.S.). He is currently writing a thesis is about the economic effects of the regulation of legal services.

Why is this session of particular interest and to whom?

This session will be of interest to those who are regulators and face the challenges of maintaining public confidence in the work that they do – including the challenge where the regulator may also be a representative body and to consider issues around transparency in connection with that regulation e.g. publication of disciplinary decisions, rules around price transparency and the like.

What particularly do you hope to explore in this session?  Any specific questions you hope to answer?

We hope to explore this from the different perspectives of an overarching regulator (the Legal Services Board), a regulator dealing only with consumer complaints (the Legal Ombudsman Service) and a professional body that regulates and represents (the Law Society of Scotland).

What do you hope to achieve with this session?

A lively debate leading to getting views around how trust can best be achieved and to see what views there are on the issue of price transparency for legal services and how best to achieve that.

What is the setting of your session?

An initial presentation by each speaker – maximum 5-7 minutes followed by a discussion.

inform the content/preparation?

It would be good if a couple of questions could be posed to the community/those who are attending:

  1. Have there been any challenges to your regulation in the public interest in the last five years and if so how did you go about demonstrating why you could be trusted and what you did to ensure the public interest was always at the forefront of your regulation
  2. Is price transparency an issue for you now; if it is how are you tackling it – have you reached a view about how to encourage/require it

Solicitors Regulation Authority takes steps to promote innovation

Following consultation last year, the SRA Innovate initiative will continue to encourage the development of new services while ensuring proper safeguards for the public are in place. Early indications from the pilots are that this type of facility is useful for small firms, larger providers and new entrants to the legal services market.

The opportunity for the provider to work with the SRA as they developed their thinking helped to provide assurance that the proposals were in the interests of the users of legal services. The SRA are also changing their  ‘waivers’ process. Existing or new firms can already apply for specific rules to be waived, allowing them to run their business in the way that suits them best.  By simplifying this process and making the criteria clearer, the SRA want to help firms understand what might be possible.  The SRA will publish any waivers granted to make sure the process is fair and transparent, without compromising commercial confidentiality.


The responses to the consultation and decision can be found here:

Go to the consultation page

An initial version of SRA Innovate was launched in the spring of 2016. It offers a collection of resources and access to advice to help firms who want to innovate.

Go to the SRA Innovate page

Update on legal and regulatory reforms in Nigeria

Back in September 2017 we reported on the Nigerian Bar Association’s legal and regulatory reform objectives.  Since then a number of initiatives have been undertaken.  The NBA President, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, recently attended a meeting with the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) and presented them with a number of documents for review:

  • An executive summary of the Nigerian Bar Association’s reform initiatives, which explains the context for NBA reforms, provides an overview of the current state of the Nigerian Legal Profession, and elaborates on the NBA Reform Strategy.  The Reform Strategy focuses on the promotion of reforms in four crucial areas: the regulation of the legal profession, representation of NBA members, re-engineering of the NBA’s administrative structure, and in public interest interventions by the Nigerian Bar.
  • A review of the NBA’s Corporate Governance and Financial Control Processes undertaken by KPMG Advisory Services.
  • A Report and draft Legal Profession Regulation Bill 2017 produced by the NBA Legal Profession Regulatory Review Committee (LPRRC)

The presentation was well received by BOSAN members, who endorsed the Review of the Corporate Governance and Financial Control Processes of the Nigerian Bar Association, and urged the President to ensure that the recommendations proposed by KPMG in its report were implemented before the completion of the tenure of the current NBA administration. The Body also set up a Committee, which is mandated to review the draft Legal Profession Regulation Bill and forward its recommendations on the Bill to the NBA for its harmonisation into the final draft Bill.


Request for input: remuneration policy

Motlatsi Barnabas Molefe, Chief Executive Officer of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund South Africa has contacted ICLR.net to request the assistance of fellow ICLR members.

They are in the process of reviewing their own remuneration policy and they have been requested by their Remuneration Committee to compare with international trends.  They are not looking for salary figures, instead they are hoping for details of the actual remuneration policy, or approach, used by legal regulators in other jurisdictions.

If ICLR members have any relevant information or guidance they are willing to share, or would like to know more about this initiative, please contact the Fidelity Fund’s remuneration expert, Motlatsi Molefe at:  motlatsi@fidfund.co.za.

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada: AML update

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada (the “Federation”) is in the midst of a consultation with its members, the 14 provincial and territorial regulators of the legal profession, on proposed amendments to the Model Rules that have formed the cornerstone of the law societies’ fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities for more than a decade. The amendments, and a proposed new rule that would tie the use of lawyer trust accounts to the provision of legal services, are intended to ensure that the law societies’ anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing regulations are as robust and effective as possible.

As a result of litigation between the Federation and the Canadian government, federal anti-money laundering and terrorism financing legislation and regulations do not apply to members of the legal profession. Acknowledging the importance of combatting these illegal activities, the regulators have been at the forefront of the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism since adoption in 2004 of the No Cash Rule. Intended as substitute for the suspicious transaction reporting requirements in the federal Proceeds of Crime (Money-laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act that the Federation challenged in court, the No-Cash Rule prohibits members of the profession from accepting more than $7,500 in cash. A second Model Rule, the Client Identification and Verification Rule, was adopted in 2008 and contains most of the same requirements that are in the federal government’s corresponding regulations.  These Model Rules have been adopted and implemented by all law societies as part of regulatory initiatives that are in keeping with important constitutional principles, as affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Fighting the threat that members of the legal profession will be used to launder money or finance terrorist activities remains a strategic priority for the Federation and its members. Recognizing that the Model Rules had not been reviewed since first adopted, in late 2016 the Federation established a special working group to undertake a full examination of the rules. The Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Working Group (the “Working Group”) is also developing best practices guidance on ensuring compliance with and enforcement of the rules. The development of comprehensive educational materials for the legal profession is also underway.

The proposed amendments to the Model Rules would clarify some aspects of the rules and would also impose new obligations, including a requirement to obtain information on beneficial owners of an organization. This proposed change would address a specific criticism of the law society anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules that has been raised by the Canadian government and the Financial Action Task Force. As there is not currently a robust corporate registry system for beneficial ownership information at either the federal or provincial levels in Canada, the Working Group recognized that compliance with this amendment may prove difficult in some cases. To address this possibility the draft amendments prescribe additional measures that must be taken when the required information cannot be obtained.

A proposed new rule would prohibit legal counsel from depositing client funds into their trust accounts except where directly related to a matter for which the lawyer or firm is providing legal services.  The Working Group is of the view that by restricting use of trust accounts, the rule, which is modeled on rules in force in several Canadian jurisdictions, would assist in reducing the risk of lawyers’ trust accounts being used for purposes related to money laundering or the financing of terrorist activities.

The consultation on the amendments and new rule will continue through March 15, 2018. It is anticipated that final amendments will be approved before the summer and will then be referred to the law societies for implementation.

As the Federation’s consultation is wrapping up the Canadian government has launched a mandated review of its anti-money laundering legislation.  Although government representatives have suggested on a number of occasions that the government will try again to bring legal counsel within the scope of the federal anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing regime, a government lawyer testifying at recent hearings being held as part of the review acknowledged that this may not be possible. Referring to the 2015 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada that found the application of the legislation to legal counsel was unconstitutional, the lawyer said   “It won’t be easy. If you read this case, you will realize there is very little latitude to require information from lawyers, or to impose a requirement with respect to the submission of client information.”

Link to full consultation report

Article contributed by Frederica Wilson, Executive Director, Policy and Public Affairs and Deputy CEO, Federation of Law Societies of Canada

International Conference of Legal Regulators 2017: Keynote address

Keynote address by Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Ms Indranee Rajah SC

Mr Gregory Vijayendran, President, Law Society of Singapore, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,


I am delighted to join all of you here today at the sixth edition of the International Conference of Legal Regulators.

Let me begin by first extending a warm welcome to each of you to Singapore.

Singapore’s journey with the International Conference of Legal Regulators 2017 first started at the inaugural ICLR in London in 2012, which was attended by representatives from my Ministry. They were soon joined by representatives from the Law Society of Singapore for the 2014 and 2016 sessions. More recently, in 2016, representatives from the Supreme Court of Singapore also attended.

Looking back, our attendance at the International Conference of Legal Regulators over the last 5 years has been invaluable. We have built strong connections and have learnt from other jurisdictions in this very important but specialised area. We have also had the opportunity to share with others our own lessons and successes, in the hope that they may be of use to other regulators grappling with similar matters.

The International Conference of Legal Regulators is unique in that it remains the only platform for legal services regulators of its kind to date. Having benefited from the experience, we were keen to give our support to widening the network and make it more accessible to others, especially our peers in the Asia Pacific region.

My Ministry and the Law Society of Singapore therefore proposed to extend the reach of the network by hosting the Conference in Asia and in Singapore and we were heartened to receive the support and agreement of members of the ICLR network last year in Washington D.C. It is for this reason that the Organising Committee settled upon this Conference’s theme: “Legal Regulation in a Borderless World: Building Networks”.

We are grateful to each of you for making the journey here (for some of you, this has been an incredibly long journey) and we hope that you will find the next two days of discussions extremely fulfilling.

I am happy to note, that the ICLR has successfully extended its reach to new jurisdictions. For the first time, we have representatives from 8 new jurisdictions, namely, Guam, Kenya, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. We also have broader representation from several countries and are pleased to welcome new representative institutions from Australia, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Singapore’s philosophy and approach towards legal services regulation


Singapore’s framework for legal services regulation has a tripartite structure and each of these regulators have been represented in the organisation of this Conference – the Law Society of Singapore; the Supreme Court of Singapore (which co-hosted the welcome reception yesterday evening) and the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (“LSRA”) (a department under my Ministry). There is a strong culture of collaboration, cooperation and partnership between these three bodies, based on mutual respect and shared objectives and values.

Our current tripartite regulatory regime was introduced in November 2015, following a comprehensive review of our regulatory structure for legal services. I would like to take a few moments to share what we did and some of the thinking behind this.

Prior to our reforms, Singapore had a bifurcated system for Singapore and foreign-qualified lawyers. Singapore lawyers came under a disciplinary regime that was administered by the Law Society and which was subject to the ultimate oversight of the Supreme Court, while foreign-qualified lawyers came under the oversight and discipline of the Attorney-General. This regulatory approach served its purpose for a season.

As Singapore’s legal market matured and the legal profession became increasingly cosmopolitan in nature, the traditional lines between members of the Singapore Bar and foreign Bars were increasingly blurred.

With the growth and evolution of law firms, we also observed that the management’s role in law practices was of increasing importance. Although we still have many firms which are traditional sole proprietorships and small partnerships, the larger law firms of today adopt more sophisticated entity structures through which they provide their legal services. These include limited liability partnerships and law corporations. It was therefore timely to introduce a more holistic regulatory framework for all law practices at the entity level in addition to regulation of the individual lawyer. With entity level regulation, we added flexibility to accommodate new developments and trends in the profession and the legal services market.

In 2015, we therefore implemented a number of changes. First, we looked at unifying our professional disciplinary regime and refining the architecture of our Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules. The disciplinary framework for individual lawyers was streamlined to cover all Singapore and foreign-qualified lawyers under the same processes administered by the Law Society under the ultimate oversight of the Supreme Court.

Second, a new Professional Conduct Council, which was chaired by the Chief Justice, was established to oversee the rules relating to professional conduct matters. The current rules apply to both Singapore lawyers and foreign-qualified lawyers and comprise: universally accepted principles of professional conduct that apply to all lawyers in Singapore; and specific rules that are relevant to the practice of Singapore law which will only apply to Singapore lawyers and foreign lawyers who practise Singapore law.

In addition, the rules also bring the management of law practices into the fold to ensure that lawyers involved in the management of a law practice have responsibility for maintaining adequate systems in three important areas of legal practice: maintaining and handling client money and accounts; dealing with conflicts of interest; and lawyer-client confidentiality.

Third, to put in place entity regulation, we created a new office of the Director of Legal Services (“DLS”), a statutory appointment under the Legal Profession Act. To support the work of the DLS, the LSRA was established as a new department under the Ministry of Law. The DLS regulates and licenses all law practice entities and registers foreign lawyers, as well as Singapore solicitors practising in foreign law practices, the latter being functions which were previously performed by the Attorney-General. The DLS also regulates the business criteria applicable to law practices, such as foreign ownership, profit-sharing and the names of law practices.

This new regime has enabled us to be more flexible and responsive to change. For example, non-lawyer employees of law practices can now apply to the LSRA to be partners, directors or shareholders in, or to share in the profits of Singapore law practices, up to certain prescribed limits. This gives law practices greater flexibility to attract and retain non-lawyer talent, such as those with strong finance or management expertise, who can bring added value to a law practice.

The DLS is supported by a multi-disciplinary team of officers. Many of you in the audience are well acquainted with Singapore’s first DLS, Ms Joan Janssen, and our Registrar, Ms Gloria Lim.

Fourth, we moved from a paper-based licensing and registration regime to a fully paperless regime. Applications received by the LSRA are submitted through an online e-Services portal. We also provided for back-end data interface between the three legal regulators in Singapore and this has enhanced the user’s experience. For example, with one click, a member of the public is able to use the integrated search function to search for all law practices and collaborations registered with the LSRA, as well as lawyers practising in Singapore by their name, firm or practice area.

These strides have helped to modernise the regulatory framework for the profession in Singapore and ultimately, encourage the continued growth and development of the industry.
The digitisation of our services will also enable the collection of valuable data, without which a regulator is operating in the dark. A data-driven regulator is able to make decisions and craft policies more accurately, rationally, in an evidence-based manner. We are in the early days of this transformation, and I am heartened to note that this Conference is spending valuable time discussing how data can be collected, used and employed by legal service regulators.

Importance of legal services regulation – building trust in the legal system, particularly in Asia

Economic activity is growing in Asia at an unprecedented pace. Southeast Asia alone boasts 600 million people and a US$2.4 trillion GDP. Many new commercial activities and investments are taking place in this part of the world. Legal work follows business activity and we have seen significant growth in the legal services sector over the past decade.
Take Singapore as an example. Even though legal services account for a very small proportion of our GDP, Singapore’s legal industry has grown steadily over the years. The nominal value added by the legal services sector to our economy has grown from S$1.5 billion in 2008 to an estimated S$2.2 billion in 2016. Over the same period, the value of legal services exported from Singapore more than doubled, increasing by about 110%.

Although global growth rates have slowed in the last two years, economies in Asia are displaying enormous growth potential. Both international and Asian law firms are spreading their wings in the region. To give you a sense of the numbers, there are about 150 foreign firms with a presence in Southeast Asia. Of the 30 largest foreign firms with a presence in Southeast Asia, almost two-thirds are present in more than one jurisdiction and about half of these have a base in three or more countries.
The total number of lawyers in the 100 largest firms in Asia grew by 15% from about 39,000 in 2015 to more than 44,000 today. This is largely driven by the law firms’ opening of new offices outside of their home jurisdictions.

What does all this mean for legal services regulators today? Apart from reflecting the strategic importance of the legal sector to the economy, the legal sector also plays an important role in facilitating the administration of justice and advancing the rule of law. As many of you in the room will no doubt attest to, this is not just aspirational – legal services regulation is necessary to uphold trust in the legal system, and to protect the interests of the public.

Challenges facing legal regulators

Finally, let me say something about the environment which legal services regulators operate in today. It is a time of increasing complexity in the world – there are a number of drivers of change in the regulatory landscape, some of which will be explored in extensive detail in the sessions during the Conference. I would like to highlight three of these drivers.

First, the emergence of alternative legal service models and financing. The legal profession is undergoing significant transformation. The business models of yesteryear are no longer viable – cost pressures have driven law practices to diverge from the traditional model of billable hours towards fixed, blended or capped fees. Many law practices have embraced alternative billing models to respond to criticisms of inefficiency and excess and are recognising that they need to make changes to their BigLaw business models to enhance transparency and offer clients greater flexibility and value. These are positives for consumers. In some jurisdictions, law practices have adapted with innovative business models, establishing multi-disciplinary practices and virtual law practices. Some law firms have merged to position themselves better in the face of rising competition, or entered into new collaborations.

Regulation has to adapt and respond to these changes. As regulators, you will be well aware of the perennial issue of change outpacing regulation. New models bring with it new regulatory considerations and issues. You will no doubt be familiar with how the injection of capital by external financial investors into law practices can help further the growth potential of law practices, but at the same time, raises concerns about potential negative implications on the law practice’s fundamental obligations to their clients. Investors such as third party funders are also offering law firms funding in ever more inventive forms, such as buying interests in entire portfolios of disputes. In navigating these waters, regulators are, shall we say, the last bastion. Regulators have the difficult but necessary task of safeguarding and protecting the public interest and at the same time, not standing in the way of innovation and competition, which also benefits consumers. This is a delicate balance, and there are no easy answers. Nor is there a “one size fits all” solution that can be applied across jurisdictions. But we can and should certainly learn from each other.

Second, technological disruption. Technology is hard at work disrupting every aspect of our lives and the law is no exception. Today, the company with the largest number of visitor accommodation doesn’t own a single hotel – that is Air BnB. Could it be that tomorrow, the largest legal services provider in the world will not have a single human lawyer? We cannot rule it out.

Businesses that see the opportunity in this space are reinventing and re-engineering the delivery of legal services and some law practices are responding. Those with the resources are working with IT and artificial intelligence companies to innovate and use technology to their own advantage. These firms recognise that embracing developments such as the rise of artificial intelligence can offer a prime opportunity to radically reform their delivery of legal services. Software companies, recognising the opportunity, have also developed expert systems to allow firms to build custom applications that can provide on-demand guidance to clients at a lower cost. Increasingly, we see that the work of lawyers is no longer confined to legal professionals – it is not uncommon for law practices to outsource work to external vendors based outside their jurisdiction. Legal outsourcing, both onshore and offshore, has transformed the practice of law as we know it, as law practices compete to stay ahead of the curve. With this, issues such as client confidentiality and data protection come to the fore and regulators have to rethink their current frameworks in the face of these technological developments.

Third, globalisation. It is apt that the theme for this year’s Conference is “Legal Regulation in a Borderless World: Building Networks”. The practice of law is indeed increasingly borderless. Domestic law practices are expanding across borders, collaborating with foreign law practices and forming inter-continental mergers, erasing traditional boundaries on the geographic scope of legal practice. At the same time, clients are also increasingly internationalising, with business arms cutting across multiple jurisdictions. Regulation, which is premised traditionally on the geographic scope of the practice of law, needs to be re-engineered. Regulators need to find ways to collaborate and to ensure that they are able to fulfil their mandate and functions. This, we feel, will be instrumental in helping legal service regulators adapt to the ever-changing legal landscape.


I hope that this Conference will continue to promote deeper dialogue on these issues which I have mentioned and many more. The ICLR network allows you to exchange views on these emerging trends in a safe space and to share best practices – I urge you to build on these collaborative networks, which will collectively strengthen our respective regulatory and enforcement agencies.

I wish you a fruitful Conference, and a wonderful stay in Singapore. I hope you will take the opportunity to explore Singapore, visit some of our attractions, sample our cuisine and make new and lasting connections.

Thank you very much.

5 October 2017