Regulating legal services

The Legal Services Board is to investigate will writing after the board’s consumer panel found that solicitors and will writers were equally responsible for substandard wills. The LSB will consider whether to make will writing a reserved activity meaning it could be regulated.

There can be no doubt that will writing should be regulated but this largely misses the point. Solicitors are currently regulated but apparently their will writing skills are no better than those who are unregulated.

Regulation allows for complaints to be made if something goes wrong and, for the worst cases of clear negligence causing loss provides the opportunity of compensation via compulsory insurance. However, alone it does not address the underlying problem and trying to bring a successful negligence claim, even where there is insurance in place, can be a long and difficult task. It also fails entirely to deal with the substandard work where the client does not realise that it is substandard or has caused a loss. (How many people are unaware they should have been beneficiaries but for a negligently drafted will?)

The problem, which regulation alone, fails to address is poor standards.

In the legal costs field there are plenty of solicitors, barristers, legal executives, law costs draftsmen, costs lawyers and legal costs negotiators providing poor advice.

Some are regulated and some are not.

Regulation is not synonymous with, and no substitute for, high standards. That is where the focus should be.

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