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CMA decision on market investigation welcomed by Law Society

8 July 2016

An interim report into the legal services market was released today by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), prompting the Law Society of England and Wales to welcome the conclusion that no formal market investigation is needed.

There were, however, other findings which will impact of the profession. These include recommendations on the burdens of regulation and on the transparency of pricing and service quality.

The CMA report states that the competitive market for legal services could be improved with greater transparency of pricing. The Law Society stressed that the market for legal services is already highly competitive and contributes £25.7bn to the economy and supports 370,000 jobs. The Law Society said it would work with the CMA to support more information being supplied to clients while ensuring that critical client protections remain in place.

Catherine Dixon, the Law Society's chief executive said:

'We believe that the market for legal services is already competitive and solicitors offer exceptional services to their clients, as a consequence of rigorous training and years of experience. We are pleased that the CMA recognises that there is no requirement for a full market investigation.

'Making information available about the range of services and ensuring that pricing information is on offer to clients to enable them to judge on quality and price is always important.

'Recent research commissioned by the Law Society and the Legal Services Board showed that solicitors were already more likely than other advisers to provide information on costs and indicate how long the work would take. 78 per cent of those who sought professional advice were satisfied with the outcome of their problem.

'The Law Society provides a free Find a Solicitor service for people looking for a solicitor to help with their legal problems. We will work with the CMA to consider how this service can be improved and will also provide guidance and support to solicitors on best practice in price and service transparency. They will involve the profession coming together to share best practice.'

The CMA report contains proposals on professional title and opportunities to reduce the cost of regulation.

Catherine Dixon continued:

'The Law Society's view is that it is imperative that the regulatory framework protects clients and the public interest. These issues were carefully thought through as part of the Legal Services Act by Sir David Clementi and the system seems to be working effectively and, importantly, regulation is operationally independent. Although we don't think now is the time for change, we do agree that simpler and better regulation which focuses on applying consistent regulatory rules to protect buyers of legal services across the market is desirable.

'We think the current definition of regulation is way too broad because it includes professional standards, legal education and training plus entry into the profession, regulatory rules, engagement and awarding the professional title of solicitor.

'The current role of the regulator is beyond what is necessary to protect clients, creating bureaucracy and unnecessary cost.

'As envisaged by Sir David Clementi, professional standards should be owned and driven by the profession. It is clear that the CMA does not think regulation should be linked to professional title - and we agree. This would address the point that solicitors are regulated for everything they do and are competing against unregulated providers which is causing public confusion.

'We will work with the CMA to support solicitors to provide ever more relevant information to their clients, this will help clients to make informed decisions about the legal services they buy.'

Ends

Notes to editors

About the Law Society

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Contact

Press office contact: Ben Davies | ben.davies@lawsociety.org.uk | 0207 3205764