Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Friday, 1 January 2010

New board will oversee entire legal services sector

The Legal Services Board will oversee all the other regulators

A single regulatory body will oversee the entire legal services sector in England and Wales for the first time.

The Legal Services Board (LSB) was set up by the Legal Services Act 2007 and became fully active on 1 January 2010.

Its mandate is to ensure the interests of consumers are placed at the heart of the legal system. It will work with the Bar Council and the Law Society.

LSB said this means that bodies representing the legal industry would no longer regulate it.

The new quango is responsible for overseeing the regulation of lawyers, and is independent of the government and the legal profession.

It will oversee the eight approved legal regulators, who directly manage the 120,000 lawyers practising in England and Wales.

It will also oversee the Office for Legal Complaints, the new organisation being established to handle consumer complaints about lawyers.

'Conflict of interests'

LSB chairman David Edmonds told the BBC he was in charge of a "small organisation trying to make sure lawyers regulate themselves in a way which we the citizen would like lawyers to regulate themselves".

He said the board would also create an environment where new people could come into the marketplace and offer legal services.

Mr Edmonds said history had suggested there had been "conflict of interests" for the existing regulators such as the Law Society and the Bar Council.

"We are there to make sure the trade union function of the Bar Council and Law Society is separate from the regulatory bit," he said.

"We are there to make sure the regulation, which protects the consumer, is not just run in the interests of lawyers but run in the interests of the citizen."

He said the board was hoping to draw up a new rule book which would allow lawyers to provide services with different professions, such as accountants and surveyors.

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