Clementi warned that independence is critical

The legal profession last week welcomed Sir David Clementi’s ‘Review of the Regulatory Framework for Legal Services’, but warned against compromising lawyers’ independence.

Clementi asked for opinions on three regulatory models, as well as complaints handling and alternative business structures. The consultation period ended last Friday (4 June).

None of the professional bodies support the Financial Services Authority-style model A, with a single Legal Services Authority regulating the profession. Model
A is seen as reducing independence and damaging international perceptions of the UK legal system.

Deciding between the remaining two models appears harder. The City Law Society said model B+, separating regulatory and representative functions, “provides an attractive compromise” between A and B.

In contrast, the Institute of Legal Executives expressed a clear preference for model B, believing that separating regulation from representation could increase bureaucracy and confuse consumers.

The Law Society and the Bar Council said deciding between models B and B+ is currently impossible, and that the exact structure of new regulation must be clarified before the choice can be made.

Law Society chief executive Janet Paraskeva said: “Whatever model is chosen, it must preserve the independence of the legal profession and it must be cost-effective.”

Clementi has until 31 December to make his recommendations.