On 5 November 2018 the Legal Services Board (LSB) approved the Solicitors Regulation Authority's (SRA) application for changes to its regulatory arrangements in respect of the proposed "Looking to the future" Handbook reforms. However, in a letter to LSB Chair Dr Helen Phillips, the Law Society of England and Wales has attacked the decision to approve the SRA's application, and questioned the basis on which the decision was reached.
Whilst ruling out pursuing a formal judicial review into the decision, the Society has accused the board of failing to exercise proper rigour in its oversight of the SRA. Law Society president, Christina Blacklaws, wrote:
Where regulators are consistently pursuing deregulation, the LSB’s role under the [Legal Services Act] should provide an important safeguard. In particular, it falls to the LSB to ensure that the balance is maintained between competing regulatory objectives. In the case of the Decision, an objective view of the evidence submitted would suggest the decision leans too far in favour of competition and pays too little attention to consumer protections, the public interest and the interests of the professions in question.
In comments to the Law Society Gazette, Blacklaws said
We are increasingly concerned by the LSB’s lax approach to deregulation. Regulation exists to protect the public, so the stakes are high if those protections are removed. We are disappointed the LSB has rubber-stamped hugely significant rule changes without rigorously applying the available evidence to understand the impact on the public. Having waved through changes, the LSB must now put in place a credible strategy to mitigate the very real risks for consumers, particularly the most vulnerable, and avert a potential loss of public confidence in highly trained legal professionals such as solicitors. We urge the LSB to focus on the best interests of the public and maintain the globally recognised high standards of UK legal services as guiding principles when considering future changes to regulations.