[JURIST] Legal services in the UK are set to be revolutionized after the British government Friday published [press release] a much-anticipated bill [DCA materials] that would remove the right of the legal profession to regulate itself and would allow other businesses - such as banks and even, in theory, supermarkets - to own law practices. The legislation, which would also allow law firms to operate in free association with other groups of professionals such as accountants and to receive investment, was formally introduced in the House of Lords Thursday and is expected to come into force in 2008.
Disciplinary authority over the legal profession will now vest in an independent body. Lord Falconer [official profile], the Lord Chancellor and head of the Department of Constitutional Affairs [official website], said of the change:
Today's proposals aim to increase public confidence in acquiring legal services that are fit for purpose. The Legal Services Board will oversee approved regulators who will be required to separate regulation and representation, thus removing any conflict of interest.The changes have been under consideration for some time. Sir David Clementi submitted an independent comprehensive review [report text] of the regulatory framework for legal services in England and Wales in 2004. Falconer unveiled preliminary plans [JURIST report] in March 2005, bringing forward a White Paper in October which formed the basis of the first draft bill. Legal Week has more.
Currently, bodies that regulate legal services provision also act as representatives of their profession, a position that could raise the question of impartiality. The Office of Legal Complaints will further increase public confidence through handling consumer complaints against legal services providers and ensuring a quick and fair response.