It is very exciting that Michael Gove has signalled that there will be a review of the Legal Services Act during this parliament. There is a general consensus amongst those who work in legal services regulation that the current statutory scheme is flawed. However, the brief exchange before the Justice Select Committee raises many questions. Not least, what is a review? Will it be an internal exercise by the Ministry of Justice? Will it build on the excellent work of the existing regulators chaired by Stephen Mayson who have already prepared a paper on options or will it be an new review carried out by someone independent of MoJ?
On any scenario there are still difficulties. There is no real consensus as to any changes and there is also a reluctance by the government to extend the current regulatory framework. There is still much to do.
Giving evidence to the justice select committee, Mr Gove was asked by fellow Conservative MP Alberto Costa – a dual-qualified English and Scottish solicitor – whether, following the decision of his predecessor not to conduct a review of the Act in the last Parliament, there would instead be one in the next five years. Mr Gove replied simply: “Yes.” In a follow-up, Mr Costa sought his view on the number of approved regulators. Mr Gove said: “I wouldn’t want to pre-empt any conclusions that I might reach, but I do think that there is a danger of regulators falling over each other’s feet.”