Legal Services Board of England and Wales research shows public support for ongoing competence checks

Newly commissioned research by the Legal Service Board of England and Wales (LSB) as part of their wider work on ongoing competence, has demonstrated that the public places high importance on lawyers having up to date knowledge and skills, and the right attributes to provide high-quality services. The report also showed that there was a gap between public expectation and the current regulatory requirements around ongoing competence.

The survey was made up of 1,005 respondents in England and Wales and found that:

  • 55% of respondents assumed that lawyers face regular skills checks, in a similar manner to doctors, pilots or teachers
  • 95% thought that lawyers should have to demonstrate that they remain competent throughout their careers
  • 87% thought that regulators should do more to reduce the risk of lack of competence
  • 88% thought there should be more consistency in competence requirements across the profession, as there are for other regulated professions

Dr Helen Phillips, Chair of the Legal Services Board, said:

“This research shows that there is a gap between what the public expect when it comes to lawyers’ competence and what checks are currently in place. We will be developing our thinking on what more needs to be done in this area to build public confidence, and engaging widely on our emerging thoughts.”

Read more about the research here. 

Legal Services Board of England and Wales release new report on ongoing competence

The Legal Services Board of England and Wales (LSB) has released a new blog alongside a newly commissioned report on ongoing competence. The blog highlights the fact that ‘the LSB’s work on ongoing competence is central to its regulatory objective to protect and promote the interests of consumers. Consumers should be able to trust that legal professionals have the necessary and up to date skills, knowledge and attributes to provide good quality legal services.’

The report was commissioned from legal market consultancy Hook Tangaza, following the LSB’s call for evidence in 2020, which identified ongoing competence measures used in legal services and other professional sectors in England and Wales as a key area of interest, stakeholders told the LSB that it would be beneficial to understand the approaches of other jurisdictions.

The blog sets out how the LSB has used the report to “identify some models in jurisdictions taking a first-principles approach to assuring ongoing competence, thinking about what they are trying to achieve and why. As a result, these jurisdictions are increasingly attentive to the regulation of legal professionals beyond the point of qualification i.e. in-practice regulation.”

Adding that “In-practice regulation has historically been overlooked around the world, while ensuring ongoing competence has not been prioritised or linked to a wider understanding of what competence looks like in a practising legal professional. This is out of step with consumer expectations of competence and the robust checks they assume are in place throughout legal professionals’ careers.”

Read the full report here, read more about the LSB’s work on competence here, or read the blog here.

Legal Services Board releases options on ongoing competence

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has published anew report on ongoing competence in the legal services sector. Confirming that it plans to develop this thinking further and consult on how competence can be assured over the course of a lawyer’s career. In the report the LSB points out that whilst legal regulators have comprehensive measures on entry into the profession, however there are few checks to ensure that competence is maintained.

The report was produced following the call for evidence that was carried out in 2020. It has been compiled using extensive discussions with stakeholders across and outside the legal services sector. It also considers approaches taken in other sectors such as financial services, aviation, healthcare, engineering and teaching, which generally have more systematic ongoing competence checks.

From its research, the LSB has concluded that most consumers mistakenly assume that lawyers are subject to regular formal checks. It has suggested that this leads to a misalignment between the current practice and what the public expects. This is why the decision has been made that ensuring legal professionals’ ongoing competence is vital to ensuring consumers’ trust and confidence in the sector. The LSB’s view is that this would also help consumers avoid harm from poor quality legal services.

In its role as the oversight regulator, the LSB has a statutory duty to assist in developing regulatory standards in the legal sector. In the report, the LSB explains that it will proceed to develop and consult on new expectations for regulators, noting that these proposals are likely to encompass high-level expectations that legal regulators should:

  • set out the standards of competence that legal professionals should meet at the point of entry and throughout their careers; and
  • have mechanisms in place to:
    • identify legal professionals who are failing to meet those standards;
    • identify areas of increased risk to consumers;
    • respond when legal professionals fall short of the standards of competence;
    • provide appropriate protection when there is an increased risk of harm to consumers.

Helen Phillips, Chair of the Legal Services Sector, said:

‘Public trust and confidence are integral to the credibility of the legal services sector, and consumers need to know that their lawyers have the necessary, up-to-date skills, knowledge and attributes to help them with their legal problems. Many people assume that legal professionals are subject to ongoing formal reviews of their competence, but there are, in fact, very few routine checks once a lawyer has qualified. Legal regulators typically do not have systems or processes in place to identify or respond to concerns about competence. This is unusual and out of step with other professions which routinely adopt tools to ensure ongoing competence to promote public trust and confidence, and protect consumers from harm. We need to reshape legal services to better meet the needs of society, which includes ensuring lawyers remain competent throughout their careers. This will help increase trust in legal services, raise standards and improve access to justice.’

Read the full report here, or the LSBs comments here.

Catherine Marienau on experiential learning and CLE

2Civility, the communications arm of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, has released a new video in its series on reimagining the law. The video features an interview with Catherine Marienau, Professor Emerita at DePaul University, discussing experiential learning and its use in CLE, particularly with regard to online learning.

Watch the video.