Legal Business Blogs

Regulatory upheaval: MoJ reshuffle leaves reforms uncertain as LSB drops Herbert Smith for judicial review

The future of regulatory reform of the legal sector appears to be hanging in the balance as justice minister Helen Grant, who announced the review in June, is replaced by former solicitor Shailesh Vara and further announcements over changes to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) team are awaited.

The review, which has seen regulators and representative bodies including the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Law Society, the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the Bar Council and the Legal Services Board (LSB) submit proposals for reform to the MoJ, is currently one of a number of issues being considered as the MoJ decides what the revamped team’s ‘portfolio’ will include.

A spokesperson for the MoJ said: ‘There may be changes, there may not be, we will know more by the end of the week.’

The submissions saw the BSB and the Bar Council call for the abolition of the LSB, which is also currently embroiled in a dispute with the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) over its decision to go ahead with the highly unpopular Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).

The CBA issued a legal challenge in September when CBA chairman Nigel Lithman QC claimed: ‘The well-argued submissions of the criminal bar on the problems inherent in the proposed QASA scheme fell on deaf ears as our regulators determined to plough ahead and impose it in its entirety.’

The LSB today (9 October) confirmed to Legal Business that Herbert Smith Freehills, the panel firm which it has instructed to defend against its decision to introduce the four level grading system for criminal advocates, has been taken off the defence after the firm rejected a Protective Costs Order that would have led to its fees being capped. Fellow panel firm Field Fisher Waterhouse has been instructed, led by senior partner Matthew Lohn.

A spokesman for the LSB told Legal Business: ‘We are constantly managing our expenses and costs.’

11 KBW’s Nigel Giffin QC, who was instructed by Herbert Smith, will continue to represent the LSB.

Baker & McKenzie is representing the CBA, led by partner Joanna Ludlam who is instructing counsel Blackstone Chambers’ Dinah Rose QC and Tom De La Mare QC. CBA members Rufus Taylor, David Howker QC, Christopher Hewertson and Katherine Lumsdon, are also working for the claimant on a pro bono basis.

The LSB’s legal panel consists of Eversheds, Field Fisher, Herbert Smith, Bates Wells & Braithwaite, Bircham Dyson Bell and Hogan Lovells.

The case is due to be heard later this year. Herbert Smith declined to comment.