A solicitor friend, AKA Dispute Adviser, has recently written this interesting blog questioning whether the threat of disciplinary proceedings incentivises professionals to do a better job.
This is something which The Legal Services Consumer Panel has suggested in its response to a recent consultation on changing the standard of proof in disciplinary hearings against barristers from ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ to the lower ‘balance of probabilities’.
Dispute Adviser says “What really intrigued me about the Panel’s conclusions was the suggestion that “Moving from the criminal standard of proof to the civil standard of proof will be fairer on consumers, and it may act as a positive incentive for barristers to deliver good services”. I find this suggestion bizarre“.
I agree with the view that the Panel’s suggestion is bizarre. In my experience of defending many professionals before their regulatory bodies, I have never been told by one that they’re motivated by fear of getting into trouble. Far more common are genuinely altruistic motivating factors such as wanting to help patients, or deriving great satisfaction from using the law to ‘fix’ clients’ problems. I struggle to understand why the Panel holds barristers in such low regard.
For me, the most interesting question raised by the Panel’s comments is this – Is The Legal Services Consumer Panel fit for purpose when its advice to the Legal Services Board about regulating barristers appears to start from a position of such negativity about lawyers? I suspect not. Yes, the remit of the Panel is to represent the interests of consumers, but surely professionals are entitled to expect that notional consumer will be a reasonable and fair minded consumer.