OSS backlog leak fuels new row

Pressure mounted on the Law Society to shed its regulatory powers this week, after the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS) admitted in a leaked letter that it faced a 5,000-file backlog, with an average completion timescale of 27 weeks.

In the letter, leaked to The Lawyer, the OSS blamed the backlog on the Summer floods at its Leamington Spa HQ, which destroyed between one and two thousand files, and the roll-out of its new Regional Office Authorisation Device computer system which began in May.

Several senior members of the legal profession have called for the creation of an independent OSS, and a review of the profession's self-regulatory powers.

National Consumer Council head of legal policy Marlene Winfield called for review of the Law Society's policing powers and for the OSS to be made independent.

Winfield said: “The roles of trade union and regulator are incompatible and Law Society rules are either not tough or not specific enough.”

Legal Action Group policy director Vicki Chapman said: “There is now a serious question mark over the profession's ability to regulate itself.”

The OSS released its first quarterly results last week, revealing it had failed to meet most of the targets it had set itself.

An OSS spokeswoman claimed some of the cases will already have been dealt with by firms themselves, under Rule 15 of the Law Society Guide to Professional Conduct, allowing solicitors to deal with the issues completely in house. “We encourage solicitors to use this rule more.”