The Legal Services Board visited Cardiff in September 2023. The visit to Wales was an opportunity for the Board and colleagues to connect, collaborate, and gain valuable insights from stakeholders in the legal profession in Wales. The LSB reports.
As the oversight regulator for legal services in both England and Wales, we place great importance on travelling around the different countries and regions to understand the challenges and opportunities facing the sector.
Building bridges across Wales
During our visit, we had the privilege of meeting with organisations such as Cardiff Law School, Cardiff School of Management, the Speakeasy Law Centre, and the Law Council for Wales.
We also hosted a reception in the iconic Senedd building, bringing together a diverse array of stakeholders from across the legal sector in Wales. Lawyers, aspiring lawyers, academics, researchers, government officials, charities, legal advice agencies, approved regulators, and regulatory bodies all came together to engage in meaningful discussions about the challenges and opportunities facing the region.
The event proved to be a goldmine of knowledge and insights, leaving us with a wealth of new learnings and action items. We would like to thank everyone who met with us. It’s one thing to analyse data and commission reports from afar, but it’s an entirely different experience to be on the ground, meeting with the people who are shaping the legal landscape in Wales.
Access to justice: a critical challenge
At the heart of our strategy lies a vision—to reshape legal services to better meet society’s needs. This vision encompasses a series of key challenges that fall under three overarching themes: fairer outcomes, stronger confidence, and better services.
One of the most pressing challenges we encountered during our visit was the issue of access to justice.
Our research reveals that a staggering 31% of people in Wales have unmet legal needs. It’s a stark reminder that not everyone can access the legal services they require. Addressing this issue, particularly in what some might call “advice deserts,” is a priority for us at the LSB.
We’re exploring how regulation can play a pivotal role in addressing unmet legal need. As our Chair set out in his speech at the Senedd reception, our goal is to ensure that everyone, whether in Cardiff or rural Llansannan, can easily contact a lawyer and obtain affordable legal advice when needed.
Empowering consumers: unlocking opportunities in Wales
Another aspect we’re actively addressing through regulation is consumer empowerment. We’ve taken steps to enhance price transparency, making it easier for people in Wales to compare and access legal services.
Interestingly, the cost of common legal services, like conveyancing, divorce, wills, trusts, and probate services, is significantly lower in Wales compared to England. This cost advantage could potentially attract customers from across the border, opening up new opportunities for lawyers in Wales.
We’ve published a statutory statement of policy aimed at empowering consumers to access information about the service and quality of legal services providers. This policy outlines how regulators should ensure that individuals and small businesses have the information they need to make informed decisions about their legal needs.
A path forward
Our visit to Wales left us with a heightened sense of purpose. Access to justice is undoubtedly a significant issue in Wales, and we are committed to addressing it head-on through targeted and proportionate regulation. Furthermore, we recognise the need for better data to inform our policies and decisions regarding legal services in Wales.
As we continue to work toward our vision, collaboration remains the cornerstone of our approach. We eagerly anticipate the insights and contributions from the legal community in Wales and look forward to a future where legal services are more accessible, affordable, and aligned with the needs of society as a whole.
As well as speaking at and attending the Legal Wales conference on 6 October 2023, we are looking forward to holding the first meeting of legal services regulators in Wales in November 2023, where we will consider how to take forward our learning so far and collaborate to ensure legal services better meet the needs of people and small businesses in Wales.