The Scottish Government has released the results of its public consultation process into the outcomes of the 2017 Roberton Review

In 2017, the Scottish Government commissioned an independent Review of the regulation of legal services in Scotland (known as the Robertson Review). The primary recommendation from this was:

“There should be a single regulator for all providers of legal services in Scotland. It should be independent of both government and those it regulates. It should be responsible for the whole system of regulation including entry, standards and monitoring, complaints and redress. Regulation should cover individuals, entities and activities, and the single regulator should be a body accountable to the Scottish Parliament and subject to scrutiny by Audit Scotland.”

This represented a significant departure from the current model and was a source of contention. The Scottish Government set out, therefore, to find some degree of consensus in order to move forward, one element of which was to run a public consultation exercise.

The consultation document set out and sought views on three possible models for change – one based on the primary recommendation from the Robertson Review, and two alternatives (see Appendix A). The consultation ran from 1 October to 24 December 2021.

The results and recommendations can be found in the report linked below.

Read the full report here.

The Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation has released a supplementary report on consumer harm and legal services

The catalyst for the Review was the market study carried out by the Competition and Markets Authority in 2016. The CMA concluded that the legal sector was not serving the consumer well.

This supplementary report fills in some of the gaps left by the final report. Chiefly, the final report assumes the nature of consumer harm without exploring what this means in reality. This report examines what the types of consumer harm are in the legal sector, and the causes and consequences of this harm.

Read the full paper here.

The Legal Services Board of England and Wales publishes statement for regulators to empower legal services consumers

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has published a statutory statement of policy on empowering consumers to better access information about the service and quality of legal services providers. Developed following a consultation and engagement with legal services regulators and others across the sector, the statement outlines how the regulators should ensure that individuals and small businesses who need legal advice have the information they need to shop around and choose the provider most suited to their legal needs.

With the published statement, the LSB has set expectations for regulators to ensure legal services providers offer useful information to consumers about the cost and quality of their services and on redress and regulation.

Findings from the 2020 Individual Legal Needs Survey suggested that 3.6 million people in England and Wales had an unmet legal need involving a dispute each year. Findings from the 2021 Small Business Legal Needs Survey suggested that only a quarter of small businesses obtain professional help to deal with legal issues, while half try to handle them alone or take no action at all.

The statement sets out actions for regulators to implement effective programmes of activity to support public legal education, focusing on activities that support people to understand when they have a legal problem and how to access the professional help they need to resolve it. This includes, for example, contributing to cross-sector initiatives like the Legal Choices website to increase public understanding of citizen’s legal rights and duties.

Read the full article here.

 

Close Contact Scheme for critical justice sector workers in close contact with COVID patients rolled out in New Zealand

The Ministry of Justice and Courts New Zealand has outlined a Close Contact Scheme for critical justice sector workers in close contact with  COVID patients. Workers who cannot execute their work remotely will be allowed to continue their work if they apply for the Close Contact Exemption Scheme as long as they:

  • are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic
  • fall under the ‘critical services’ category
  • return a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) prior to each day/shift they are at work during the isolation period, and
  • follow specific health protocols.

This scheme will allow the judicial system to continue operating throughout the second and third phase of the Omicron response.

Read the full story here.

Research shows a majority of solicitors in New South Wales hope changes to legal practice will remain in place

Research commissioned by the Law Society of New South Wales in Australia shows a majority of solicitors hope changes to legal practice brought about by COVID-19 remain in place. Respondents note that the move to remote delivery of legal services has brought a net benefit with the vast majority of solicitors in NSW hoping to keep them in some guise. Only 22% of the 1500 surveyed believed measures brought in to combat COVID-19 had had a net negative affect on their practice.

Across processes, particular benefits of the changes have included indisputable time efficiencies for all parties, cost savings and benefits for accessibility/flexibility due to the reduction or elimination of travel and access to justice.

Read the full story here.

WTO negotiations on domestic services regulation have concluded successfully in Geneva

67 WTO member delegates participated in the Joint Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation, which aims to reduce administrative costs and create a more transparent environment for services providers to operate in when conducting business in foreign markets.

This initiative marks the first set of rules governing service regulation in nearly 25 years. The trade agreement covers licensing, qualification requirements, procedures and technical standards. The move has been welcomed by The Law Society of England and Wales, amongst a number of other professional bodies.

Read the full article here.

The Scottish Government is beginning a consultation aimed at reforming legal services regulation

The Consultation has been launched with the aim of ensuring that consumer interests are at the heart of Scottish legal services moving forward. The Scottish Government are seeking views on developing a system of legal services regulation that would promote a flourishing legal sector and place consumer interests at its heart. Ministers want to ensure the system of regulation in Scotland incorporates the competitive provision of legal services, the public and consumer interest..

A consultation will run until 24th December based on recommendations from an independent review of the regulation of legal services. It will seek views on potential changes that could be made, developed collaboratively with stakeholders, designed to improve the transparency and accountability in the way in which legal services are regulated, and the legal complaints system operates in Scotland.

Read the full story here

LSB sets clear expectations for regulators to improve consumer information, promote rights, and drive choice in the legal services market across England and Wales

The LSB in partnership with regulators is working ensure legal services providers offer helpful information to consumers about the cost and quality of their services and on redress and regulation, so consumers can make informed decisions.

The LSB is also proposing that regulators implement effective programmes of activity to support public legal education, focusing on activities that support people to understand when they have a legal problem and how to access the professional help they need to resolve it.

The consultation follows legal service market studies done by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in 2016 and a further review in 2020, during which, the CMA found that the market was not working in the best interests of consumers.

Read the full story here

Law Society of British Columbia to Widen Access to Legal Services

On September the 10th the Law Society of British Columbia elected to make changes suggested by a task force on modernisation established this January.

The task force cited ongoing changes in the legal market, which have been accelerated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the pace of change in other jurisdictions, as to why change was needed.

Recommendations include:

  • evaluate how existing and emerging technologies can better support legal services and address regulatory impediments that exist in permitting their use
  • move to amend regulatory structures to allow for innovation in legal service delivery and alternative business structures while protecting the public
  • re-evaluate current regulations and restrictions on law firm ownership and investment, as well as multi-disciplinary practice and partnership structures to ensure they are not inhibiting innovation
  • advance its initiative on the regulation of licensed paralegals to improve access to legal services
  • regularly reach out to and develop resources to support in-house counsel and government lawyers
  • continue work on Indigenous legal services by understanding where more support is needed and listen to and work with Indigenous peoples to address that need
  • re-consider the accreditation process for lawyers in British Columbia, with special consideration given to how to incorporate more skills-based training into that process

The task force was set up with the following mandate: “Recognizing that significant change in the legal profession and the delivery of legal services is expected over the next five to 10 years, the Futures Task Force will identify the anticipated changes, consider and evaluate the factors and forces driving those changes, assess the impact on the delivery of legal services to the public, by the profession and on the future regulation of the legal profession in British Columbia, and make recommendations to the Benchers on the implications of the anticipated changes and how the Law Society and the profession might respond to the anticipated changes.”

And began the recommendations by saying: “Change is constant in all aspects of our lives, and this is true in the practice of law as well. Client expectations, competition among lawyers and with other professionals, technology, generational expectations, and societal norms all affect what lawyers do and how they carry out their practice in important ways. Society’s expectations of what lawyers do and how they should do it also change. How lawyers keep up with these changes is very important for the availability of efficient and affordable legal services and for the confidence that the public has in the legal profession as a whole, and equally important for the sustainability of their practices and their personal well-being. A legal profession that is incapable of achieving outcomes that resonate with what society expects is one in which the public will eventually lose confidence. ”

Read the full recommendations here (PDF). 

UK Government issues guidance note for a no-deal Brexit result

A scenario in which the UK leaves the EU without agreement (a ‘no deal’ scenario) remains unlikely given the mutual interests of the UK and the EU in securing a negotiated outcome.

Negotiations are progressing well and both we and the EU continue to work hard to seek a positive deal. However, it’s our duty as a responsible government to prepare for all eventualities, including ‘no deal’, until we can be certain of the outcome of those negotiations.

For two years, the government has been implementing a significant programme of work to ensure the UK will be ready from day 1 in all scenarios, including a potential ‘no deal’ outcome in March 2019.

It has always been the case that as we get nearer to March 2019, preparations for a no deal scenario would have to be accelerated. Such an acceleration does not reflect an increased likelihood of a ‘no deal’ outcome. Rather it is about ensuring our plans are in place in the unlikely scenario that they need to be relied upon.

This series of technical notices sets out information to allow businesses and citizens to understand what they would need to do in a ‘no deal’ scenario, so they can make informed plans and preparations.

This guidance is part of that series.

Also included is an overarching framing notice explaining the government’s overarching approach to preparing the UK for this outcome in order to minimise disruption and ensure a smooth and orderly exit in all scenarios.

We are working with the devolved administrations on technical notices and we will continue to do so as plans develop.

Full UK Government Guidance Note Here

Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Response

Bar Standards Board (BSB) Response