The Legal Services Consultative Panel was established by the Access to Justice Act 1999. Section 35 (3) describes the responsibilities of the Panel as:
Assisting in the maintenance and development of standards in the education, training and conduct of persons offering legal services by considering relevant issues in accordance with the programme of work approved by the Lord Chancellor and ... ... making recommendations to him;
Providing to the Lord Chancellor, at his request, advice about particular matters relating to any aspect of the provision of legal services (including the education, training and conduct of persons offering legal services);
Functions conferred or imposed on it by other provisions of this Act or any other enactment.
In pursuit of these duties, the Panel is empowered to seek information from or give advice to any body or person.
The membership of the Panel during the period 1 January - 31 December 2000 has been: Professor Lee Bridges, Lady Elizabeth Finsberg, Professor Bob Hepple, Ian McNeil, Barbara Mensah, Anne Owers, Charles Plant, Lord Justice Potter (Chairman), John Randall QC, Simon Sapper, Alan Street, Peta Sweet, Richard Wise.
The Panel has two main areas of activity:
First, it considers matters referred to it by the Lord Chancellor under s.35 (3)(b) and (c) above.
Second, it undertakes work in relation to its general brief under s.35 (3)(a)
In May the Panel agreed that it would carry out detailed work in both of these areas primarily through working groups, which would consider the issues involved, if necessary hold discussions with relevant parties, prepare draft submissions and report back to the main Panel.
In relation to its general brief, the Panel has submitted a work programme to the Lord Chancellor. This is dealt with in more detail under 'The Future' below.
Bar Council/Law Society proposals on use of fees
Mr McNeil (chair)
Professor Hepple (chair)
Professor Bridges (if available)
Developments in Community Legal Services
Mr Wise (chair)
Public Defenders and Criminal Defence Services
Ms Owers (chair)
Professor Bridges (if available)
Mr Plant (chair)
The Panel has met 16 times in full session. There have been meetings of all the working parties.
The primary call on the resources of the Panel is ad hoc referrals from the Lord Chancellor.
During the year, we have considered referrals, and provided advice to the Lord Chancellor, on:
The Panel's advice on the first three matters has been accepted by the Lord Chancellor.
Under its work programme proposed to the Lord Chancellor, the Panel proposed consideration of:
The Panel also put forward proposals for more detailed research, in the area of legal education and training generally, but in particular in relation to the needs of the Community Legal Service. These proposals have not been approved as part of the programme for the coming year. However, the Panel is statutorily required to maintain an active interest in this area which it considers fundamental to various aspects of its likely future work.
As part of its legal education brief, members of the Panel are invited to attend the Lord Chancellor's Standing Conference on Legal Education, which is Chaired by Lord Justice Potter.
The Panel 's advice to the Lord Chancellor is published.
Its advice on rights of audience in the higher courts was published on 6 September. Publications due after 31 December 2000 are Advice on Law Society Practising Certificate Fees and the Panel's response to consultation papers on the Criminal Defence Service. Panel advice has already been made available on the LCD website. When given, other Panel advice will be published.
The Panel has recently received referral from the Lord Chancellor of an application by the General Council of the Bar to amend the Rules of Conduct of the Bar to permit employed barristers to conduct litigation. It anticipates receiving the referral of an application from the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys [Endnote 1].
As part of its working programme, the Panel has proposed that it should hold watching briefs on Public Defenders; Developments in the Community Legal Service; Conditional Fees and Codes of Conduct for Advocates. The Lord Chancellor has agreed these items and the Panel will proceed accordingly.
The Lord Chancellor has informed the Panel that a number of regulatory issues lie ahead. Some of the matters which may be the subject of reference to the Panel include further amendments to the Bar's Code of Conduct [Endnote 2]; outlawing age discrimination in selecting pupils and tenants; changes emerging from the e-commerce sectoral impact study; the Law Society's proposed revised code for the 21st Century; moves toward Multi-Disciplinary Partnerships, and possible work on issues in relation to foreign lawyers practising in England and Wales. There may also be issues arising from the Office of Fair Trading's Review of Competition in Professions, upon which the Panel's advice is sought.
The Panel would like to place on record its appreciation for the work of the Secretariat in supporting and facilitating its work.
Advice to the Lord Chancellor regarding the proposed changes to the General Council of the Bar Code of Conduct and the Consolidated Regulations of the Inns of Court and the Law Society's Rules and Principles of Professional Practice and Higher Courts Qualification Regulations.
Response of the Panel to the Consultation Documents published by the Lord Chancellor's Department on the Criminal Defence Service: "Establishing A Salaried Defence Service And Draft Code of Conduct" and "Choice of Representative".
Advice to the Lord Chancellor on an Application for the approval of rules to prohibit barristers from practising unless authorised by a certificate issued by the General Council of The Bar in accordance with s.46 of the Access To Justice Act 1999 and on a Submission to the Lord Chancellor by the Law Society in relation to the Lord Chancellor's application of s.47 of the Access To Justice Act 1999 (purposes for which the Law Society may apply fees payable on the issue of practising certificates).
Referred to the Panel on 8 June 2001
Referred to the Panel on 25 May 2001