Regulating Education in Liberalised Market

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Long title: 
Regulating Education and Training in a Liberalised Legal Services Market: The Experience of England and Wales
Author(s): 
Webb, Julian
Author(s)' contact information: 
University of Warwick, UK
Conference title: 
International Legal Ethics Conference VI
Conference location: 
City University London
Country: 
UK
Year: 
2014

The Legal Services Act 2007 (LSA) has been central to the paradigmatic shift in the regulation and delivery of legal services that is occurring in England and Wales. The LSA was passed in the wake of a series of critical reviews of existing professional structures which highlighted the extent to which developments in the Anglo-Welsh legal services market had been restricted by regulatory complexity, limited competition and a relative lack of service innovation. The LSA sought to address these weaknesses by liberalizing the market, creating a functional separation of regulatory and representative functions, and introducing a degree of regulatory oversight of the legal services market by a new body called the Legal Services Board (LSB). The LSB in turn has actively pursued the liberalization agenda by steering the new professional regulators towards regulatory strategies grounded in methods of risk-based and outcomes-focused regulation.
These changes have been accompanied by a growing strategic focus on education and training as a regulatory tool in its own right. In May 2011, the larger frontline regulators (the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board and ILEX Professional Standards) launched the first, research, phase of their Legal Education and Training Review (LETR). LETR phase 1 reported in June 2013. This paper seeks to place LETR in its historical and current social policy context. It considers the recommendations of the phase 1 Setting Standards report, together with the responses thereto of the main frontline regulators as an attempt to respond to the social complexity of legal services education and training reform. It further argues that the reform proposals can be best understood as part of an emergent political and moral economy discourse consistent with the rise of the ‘post-regulatory competition state’.

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