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‘Strategic failing’ on regulation – LSB chief
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12 Feb 2024 / britain Print

‘Strategic failing’ on regulation – LSB chief

The outgoing head of the legal profession’s umbrella regulator in England and Wales has said that a failure to root out systemic misconduct is starting to undermine public confidence in lawyers.

Matthew Hill is due to stand down as the chief executive of the Legal Services Board (LSB) next month.

According to the Law Society Gazette of England and Wales, he told a forum on legal ethics last week that the sector had to be “more honest with ourselves” about the extent of poor behaviour.

It was no longer helpful to simply regard examples of this as a “few bad apples”, he added.

‘Slower’ response

Citing the role of lawyers in the Post Office scandal, the drafting of inappropriate NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) and issuing of SLAPPs, Hill said that there had to be an acceptance that there had been a “strategic failing” with current approaches to regulation.

“While we have seen some welcome movements to reflect issues of public concern – for example, the warning notice on SLAPPs and NDAs – the response has been slower and less extensive that any reasonable person would expect,” he told a Westminster Legal Policy Forum on ethics last Friday (9 February).

“The public concern is now so widespread that the continued lack of energy from the regulators to grapple meaningfully with the issue is starting to look quite stark and, one might say, ridiculous,” the Gazette quoted Hill as saying.

‘Hired goons’

The outgoing LSB chief suggested that the rules were drafted to allow legal professionals to be technically compliant, but still act unethically.

He added that the public would be concerned that some lawyers appeared not to owe any obligation to the broader public interest, but instead acted as “hired goons” to conduct litigation.

“You can have all the guidance and warning notices, and codes of conduct you like, but if you can’t turn that into results, so people can see there are consequences for wrongdoing, it is all a bit pointless,” said Hill.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland