Legal Services Bill gets House of Lords’ blessing

The Bar Council and Law Society welcomed the House of Lords’ approval of the Legal Services Bill last Thursday (25 October).

Law Society president Andrew Holroyd said the bill, once it receives Royal Assent later this week, will create a foundation for the future of the legal profession.

“The Legal Services Bill has changed much since it was first published last December, and changed for the better,” said Holroyd. “We had many doubts then, but now we can safely say it provides a workable basis for achieving Sir David Clementi’s aims of modernising the regulatory structure.”

The bill looks to encourage greater competition in the legal services market, and through alternative business structures firms could potentially list on the stock exchange, sell a stake to private investors or merge with banks and supermarkets by 2011.

Mark Hatcher, Bar Council director of representation and policy, said the lobbying undertaken by the bar has assisted in the shaping of the bill.

“In particular the independence of the Legal Services Board has been enhanced and the bar’s expertise and experience in complaints handling will be available to the new Office for Legal Complaints,” said Hatcher.

The Bar Council and Law Society’s submissions led to an amendment on the appointment of members of the Legal Services Board, which will oversee the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Before intense lobbying the Lord Chancellor alone would make the appointments, but now the Lord Chief Justice must also be consulted.

The bill also creates an Office for Legal Complaints, which will provide redress for consumers through a single, independent service, which the BSB and SRA will feed into.