BAR COUNCIL RESPONSE TO COMPETITION AND MARKETS AUTHORITY
REPORT ON THE LEGAL SERVICES MARKET
Responding to today's report on the market for legal services from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the Bar Council agrees that wholesale reform of the regulatory framework may increase the cost of regulation and jeopardize valuable expertise.
Chairman of the Bar, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC said:"It is important that the market for legal services functions efficiently, in the interests of access to justice, and in a way which ensures that consumers' needs are met. From its review of the particular legal services covered by this market study, the CMA has concluded that it is predominantly a lack of information that is currently restricting competition in the sector.
"The Bar Council looks forward to engaging with the CMA and the Bar Standards Board, the independent regulator of the Bar, to consider ways in which information about the services provided by the Bar, compared with unregulated legal service providers, might be improved for the benefit of consumers.
"We agree with the CMA's conclusion that wholesale change to the regulatory framework carries risks, for reasons of cost and uncertainty. From the Bar's perspective there is no evidence that the current arrangements for regulation are not working in the way that Parliament intended when it enacted the Legal Services Act in 2007, through the separation of regulatory from representative functions. The Bar's ring-fenced regulator, the Bar Standards Board, is fully independent of the Bar Council.
"A single regulator, or consolidation of regulators, could not only result in the loss of expertise, as the CMA recognises, but could also lead to higher costs being imposed on lower risk providers like the Bar. This would not be in the public interest."
Last week the Chairman of the Bar appeared before the Justice Select Committee to give evidence on legal services regulation. A summary of her evidence is available here, and link to the transcript is available here.
Notes to Editors
Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.
The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:
The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services
Fair access to justice for all
The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and
The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.
The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board