ICAEW is subject to regulatory oversight by the Legal Services Board (LSB) in relation to the provision of probate services as a reserved legal service under the Legal Services Act 2007. In April 2020, ICAEW was also approved by statutory instrument as a regulator of the reserved legal service of the administration of oaths. The adaptation of regulations for this new function, delayed in 2020 due to the implementation of the LSB’s Internal Governance Rules (IGRs) and changes in staffing, will be undertaken during the course of 2022.
The ICAEW Regulatory Board (IRB) is responsible for legal services policy matters, with its corresponding activities being guided by the LSB’s strategic themes of fairer outcomes, stronger confidence and better services. In early 2020, the IRB and ICAEW’s Professional Standards Department (PSD), with the agreement of ICAEW’s main Board and Council, introduced a series of changes to governance structures in order to ensure conformity with the metrics sought by the LSB under their IGRs. These included the appointment of an Alternate Chair of the IRB (a lay member of the board who is not legally qualified) who acts as chair of the IRB in relation to legal services matters. A separate appointments process was also created, with the formation of a new appointments committee, known as the Regulatory and Conduct Appointments Committee, which has an independent chair.
The ICAEW Regulatory Board
To strengthen trust and protect the public by enabling, evaluating and enforcing the highest standards in the profession. In doing so, we ensure our firms, members and students uphold the highest standards and act in the public interest.
In light of its responsibilities and obligations, and consistent with the regulatory objectives set out in Section 1 of the Legal Services Act 2007, the IRB considers that the current key objectives in relation to legal services are:
Ensuring PSD is best set up to deliver legal services regulation
1. To ensure that ICAEW is an effective and efficient regulator of reserved legal services activities undertaken by authorised and licensed firms, by:
- ensuring there are appropriate systems in place to support the functions of policy making, application/registration, education, monitoring, conduct, related projects and other administration;
- ensuring the corresponding PSD structure and overarching governance arrangements remain fit for purpose;
- ensuring legal services regulation is properly resourced;
- continuing to implement and develop systems for the collection and analysis of key indicators and relevant data that provide for the evaluation of the performance of this regulatory function;
- addressing matters arising from the LSB’s performance assessments; and
- developing a long-term strategy for effective oversight of reserved legal services as regulated by ICAEW.
Ensuring regulated firms are delivering a good service
2. To ensure the quality of legal services work being undertaken by authorised and licensed firms, through conducting and acting upon sufficient high quality performance assessments as to identify good practice worth sharing, identify required improvements and take appropriate action where poor performance is established.
3. To implement regulations that enable the introduction of the reserved legal service of administration of oaths.
4. To monitor the provision of reserved legal services in order to identify and address any required education or training needs.
5. To monitor and, where necessary, ensure compliance with the price and service transparency requirements.
6. To ensure that there is effective communication, by:
- maintaining active and effective channels of communication with authorised and licensed firms to facilitate, for example, the dissemination of regulatory information and best practice; and
- ensuring appropriate and sufficient consultation with authorised and licensed firms and other stakeholders on relevant matters, such as proposed changes to applicable rules and regulations.
7. To promote ICAEW’s engagement with the consumers of legal services undertaken by authorised and licensed firms, together with innovations in those services, and develop consumer feedback mechanisms.
8. To seek to better understand how consumers’ experiences of using the reserved legal services of authorised and licensed firms may be affected by the ICAEW’s regulation of such activities.
9. To support and promote Legal Choices and other legal services educational platforms.
10. To explore possible areas for collaboration with the LSB and other frontline legal services regulators with a view to the advancement of the regulation of reserved legal services in the public interest.
Contributing to a more diverse and inclusive culture
11. To continue to promote and encourage a more diverse and inclusive profession to help widen public access to legal services advice and support.
12. To assess the equality impact of our policies and actions
13. To keep under review the future shape of reserved legal services as they could be delivered by ICAEW members / member firms.
2022 reserved legal services strategy consultation results
The consultation ran from 13 April to 23 May 2022.
The number of responses to the consultation was small. However, most respondents were positive about key objectives and felt the strategy supported the IRB’s mission to strengthen trust and protect the public.
We appreciate the time taken and responses submitted in relation to the reserved legal services strategy consultation. After review and careful consideration, while there are no changes to the proposed strategy as a result of the consultation, comments and submissions are valuable, stimulate debate and provide a further diversity of views. The strategy will continue to inform and drive the regulatory plan, in particular in relation to consumer focus and protections. The IRB also further emphasise its commitment to increasing diversity in the profession.
Some small amendments were made to the strategy for clarity and the final version is available here.