Making legal service regulators separate from their representative bodies “would boost customer choice and the affordability of legal services”, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has claimed.
In a submission to a market study being conducted by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the SRA also argued that fully-independent regulation would enable innovation, promote competition and improve consumer choice.
“This would in turn ensure legal services remained of a high standard while driving costs down. And it could mean significant benefits to small businesses - currently only 13% of them say that they consider lawyers provide value for money,” it added.
Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said: "If we were a fully independent regulator, we could reduce unnecessary barriers in the market, reducing costs and enabling competition to grow to the benefit of consumers, businesses and the public.
"Access to justice at affordable prices would improve as we could do much more, much faster to open up a competitive market. That would be a win/win for the users of legal services, the economy and our international legal sector.
“Public polling shows that independent regulation would also boost trust in solicitors. We are clear that a healthy legal market would be good for the long term interests of the profession and law firms."
The CMA’s market study is set to examine three key issues:
- whether customers can drive effective competition by making informed purchasing decisions;
- whether customers are adequately protected from potential harm or can obtain satisfactory redress if legal services go wrong;
- how regulation and the regulatory framework impact on competition for the supply of legal services.
More information on the CMA market study, including the SRA’s response, can be viewed here.
The Law Society has previously warned that there could be “unintended consequences” as a result of the reforms. Chancery Lane said its position was “to support and protect the public, regulation of legal services should be simpler, better, and continue to be independent of the state.”
It added that the solicitor profession should take responsibility for professional standards, including entry into the profession and awarding the professional title of solicitor.
The Law Society has been seeking members’ views ahead of the Government’s formal consultation.
In the Budget earlier this month the Treasury confirmed that the Government would shortly consult on reforms to improve choice and competition in legal services by making it easier for new providers to enter the market.