In the last few weeks, it has become increasingly apparent that the powers that be are far from convinced that legal professionals are always dealing with clients in vulnerable circumstances, as well as they might.
The Legal Services Board, whilst still stressing about ongoing competence, is also particularly focused on ‘Consumer Vulnerability’ and has it as one of 3 identified work streams in its 2023/24 business plan.
Because of this I thought it worth highlighting that the oversight regulator, which drives the agenda/policy of its frontline regulators, such as the SRA, undertook some research into consumer vulnerability, in 2022 which was designed to explore:
- What people are vulnerable to when they use legal services, and the barriers or unnecessary frictions they experience.
- What good inclusive service looks like for people in vulnerable circumstances and the balance regulation strikes between safeguarding and enabling them to use legal services.
Some of the information is highly informative, particularly we feel, this infographic, and well worth a read through for 2 reasons. Firstly, to increasing your awareness of which clients seeking legal advice, to aid your conversations on the subject. Secondly, because the LSB agenda will influence directly new SRA regulation and advice for solicitors on vulnerability and how you can help.
There seems little doubt, that further guidance and pressure from the SRA, under the oversight of ‘its bosses’ will be forthcoming in 2023, so I wanted to highlight some of the excellent independent work being done in the financial planning community, also under pressure from our own regulator the FCA.
The Financial Vulnerability Taskforce is doing amazing work and has produced some wonderful documents that would be equally useful to legal practitioners. Their website leads with this stated aim:
“The Financial Vulnerability Taskforce is a newly created independent professional body covering the Personal Finance, Insurance and wider Financial Services Sector. Its ultimate purpose is to promote greater UNDERSTANDING, encourage appropriate BEHAVIOURS and establish GOOD PRACTICE in respect of consumer vulnerability.”
Many of the same individuals, including lawyers, are also behind a new not for profit organisation, the Consumer Duty Alliance. Whilst the CDA is designed to support the financial advisory community embed the new FCA Consumer Duty regulations into firms’ best practice, consumer vulnerability is at the core of this. Consequently you might also find some of their free resources valuable and insightful as you seek to implement processes to best support clients with vulnerabilities in vulnerable circumstances seeking legal advice.
SIFA Professional member firms have been encouraged to sign up to embrace the FVT charter and would be more than happy to discuss how their have integrated work patterns and ethics within their firms to assist vulnerable clients.