Chair’s Report from Dame Janet Paraskeva
The third formal meeting of the CLC’s governing Council this year had a weighty agenda. Following informal workshop sessions, the Council reviewed proposals for fee-setting for the next licence year, which begins on 1 November. We also reviewed the CLC’s draft submission to our oversight regulator the Legal Services Board in response to its annual Regulatory Performance Assessment exercise. I report on these and the other important issues that we considered below. The agenda and papers for the meeting are on our website and if you have any questions you can email us at email@example.com.
Setting standards for entry to the profession and maintaining high standards of competence after initial qualification is the foundation of regulation to protect consumers and the public interest. I reported in February that the Council had considered next steps following last year’s consultation on changes to the CLC’s Continuing Professional Development regime.
We have now reviewed proposals for putting that into action as a full programme to maintain ongoing competence throughout careers. This gives individual lawyers more control over the training they undertake to meet the needs of their practice and the development of their career.
We are starting to put those proposals to the test with a range of groups and we would welcome your comments on the draft framework that we have developed.
The CLC has made huge efforts in the last six years to manage the cost of regulation because that is ultimately a burden on users of legal services. Since 2016 we have reduced the Practice Fee contribution rates by an effective 61% and the Compensation Fund Contributions by 60%. We have also worked hard to keep our costs as low as possible and reduced operational spend wherever we could.
We have done this against a background of rising costs and requirements from oversight regulators. The CLC has to collect these amounts, over which we have no control, from the regulated community. This year, the LSB estimates a 21% increase and the OLC estimates an 18% increase in their charges to the CLC’s regulated community.
In common with every organisation, business and household, inflation has also caused our costs to rise and so we are proposing an increase in fee rates for regulated practices. Individual licence fees will remain frozen.
The overall proposals are:
The CLC is proposing that the following fees remain unchanged from the current set rates:
It is important that we hear from you any CLC proposals so please take the time respond to our consultation.
Monitoring, enforcement, and discipline
The CLC is a pure regulator, and all of our funding goes only to setting and maintaining standards of practice for consumer protection.
This week we have published a new report on our enforcement work – how we help firms achieve compliance and what disciplinary action we take when things go wrong.
Council reviews quarterly updates on this activity, ensuring that operational performance is maintained in the programme of monitoring and enforcement and examining the progress of serious disciplinary cases that are in train using the internal Watchlist. We hope this new report will be useful to the regulated community and stakeholders with an interest in how standards are maintained.
The Council also received this helpful report from the independent Chair of the Adjudication Panel. Victoria Goodfellow will be attending the Council meeting in October to discuss her report with us.
Reporting to the Legal Services Board
The LSB undertakes an annual assessment of the performance of all of the front-line regulators of legal services. This year, the CLC has submitted some 75 pages of evidence to the oversight regulator to set out how the CLC undertakes its work to meet the standards set in the LSB’s Regulatory Performance Assessment framework. The LSB will be reviewing evidence from all the regulators and issuing a report later in the year. In the meantime you can find out about our work from our Annual Report.
The CLC operates a Compensation Fund on behalf of the profession. Users of CLC-regulated legal services can apply for compensation if they have suffered an actual loss of money or of monetary value arising out of work for which the CLC regulated Practice is legally responsible and if the Practice is unable to meet its liability in full.
While decision-making in such cases is delegated by the Council to the executive team, subject to regular reporting, the Council is asked to consider some cases that give rise to novel issues or finely balanced considerations. There was one such at this meeting.
We cannot report on individual cases for reasons of personal privacy, but data is available on Compensation Fund activity through the reporting of the CLC’s Key Performance Indicators.
The CLC’s 2023 Business Plan
The Council sets the CLC’s multi-year strategy and annual business plans. Since the beginning of 2023, the CLC has seen significant new demands placed on it. The Council therefore reviewed adjustments to the 2023 Business Plan to ensure that all planned work could be completed alongside appropriate responses to those matters not known at the time of setting the business plan originally, albeit to revised timetables.
The CLC has been working with other regulators to look at how we can get information about legal services providers to consumers more effectively so that they can make informed choices of lawyer. The Council reviewed the very useful Quality Indicators report and took advice from our Consumer Reference Group. The staff team will continue working with other regulators.
I urge anyone managing a conveyancing or probate practice to read the Quality Indicators report and think about how they might be able to use tools like TrustPilot and Google Reviews to present themselves to potential clients.
As always, the Council received reports from any committees that had met since the last Council meeting. We also reviewed the scheme of delegations to the executive team to ensure it can work in all circumstances and completed the annual review of our own terms of reference.
We will be holding an open meeting next year – more details of that will follow closer to the time.
By the time of my next report, CLC will have had its inspection by OPBAS which is due to take place in September.
I hope these reports are useful and I look forward to receiving any questions on firstname.lastname@example.org