The Legal Services Board has been accused of ‘overstepping’ its remit by the bar’s representative body after setting out new competence requirements.

Yesterday the LSB published a ‘statutory statement’ requiring regulators to develop an ‘evidence-based’ approach for ensuring lawyers remain up to date on their knowledge and skills.

The Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority welcomed the statement. However, the Bar Council described the statement as a ‘solution in search of a problem’.

Bar Council chair Mark Fenhalls QC said: ‘Throughout the consultation process we have consistently demonstrated that there is no evidence to suggest there is a systemic problem with barristers’ ongoing competence. In fact, the evidence, for example from the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund, suggests standards are generally high at the Bar.

‘Once again, we are concerned that this statement is an example of the LSB overstepping its remit as an oversight regulator when it ought to be concentrating on the performance of first-tier regulators in delivering their core activities.’

However, Fenhalls noted that the statement is intended to be flexible for regulators to apply, ‘which is a step in the right direction’.

Chancery Lane said the LSB statement would ensure regulators across the legal services sector are effective in protecting consumers and the public interest.

‘This will assist the profession to demonstrate to the public how it maintains and promotes high competence standards, so we welcome the LSB’s focus in this area,’ Society vice president Lubna Shuja said yesterday. ‘The LSB has reiterated the need for regulators to follow an evidence-based approach, which we support. It has made it clear that any new measures must be proportionate and targeted only at cases where action is needed.

‘Collecting data to assess the competence of the profession will allow regulators to address the public perception of competence issues which was identified by the LSB. It will also allow regulators to identify and address, in a targeted way, any issues that may arise.’

The SRA said: ‘We welcome the LSB’s work in this area and will continue to build on our current approach to make sure everyone can have confidence in the profession throughout their career.’