The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the regulatory arm of the Law Society of England and Wales, has publicly come out and said it believes that full separation of regulators from the representative bodies would be good for consumers and boost the affordability of legal services.
The recently enacted Legal Services Regulatory Act 2015 provides for a similar body, the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) to deal with complaints against members of the legal profession. However, the Law Society of Ireland will retain financial and accounting oversight of solicitors, meaning complaints concerning fraud or dishonesty in respect of client funds could be retained withing the disciplinary framework of the Law Society.
It is clear that the time when self-regulation of professions was effective to maintain public confidence in the professions is long past. As quoted in the article linked below, a ComRes survey conducted on behalf of the SRA found that almost 70% of those polled would be more likely to trust the solicitors profession if it was independently regulated.Notwithstanding the fact that nearly all self-regulating professions have a lay majority on disciplinary panels, there is little doubt that independent regulatory bodies are perceived as more trustworthy than an emanation of a representative body managing complaints.
One hopes that the formation of the LSRA will be first step towards truly independent regulation of the legal professions.
The SRA has set out how full independence from the Law Society would benefit the public and business users of legal services.