CLC hits back at Lord Chief Justice and Law Society opposition to new rights

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By Legal Futures

5 August 2011

Advocacy: Lord Judge says giving licensed conveyancers rights puts rule of law at risk

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) has hit back at opposition from the Lord Chief Justice and the Law Society to its application to grant rights to conduct advocacy and litigation.

The Legal Services Board (LSB) is currently considering the CLC’s application, and as one of its statutory consultees, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge has expressed his total opposition, saying advocacy and litigation are “activities which lie outside the proper sphere of activity of a licensed conveyancer”.

He also endorsed Law Society concerns over the CLC’s lack of experience to regulate such rights, and said granting the application would put the public interest and rule of law at risk.

The two other statutory consultees, the Legal Services Consumer Panel and Office of Fair Trading, support the application.

In its recently published response, the CLC pointed out that Parliament made specific provision more than 20 years ago – in the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 – for the CLC to apply to regulate advocacy and litigation services.

However, it suggested that the application be granted on condition that licences to provide advocacy and litigation services are issued initially only to those CLC-regulated entities which have solicitor or barrister partners providing litigation and advocacy services.

“We are satisfied that this alternative arrangement is consistent with the incremental approach in our application which provides an appropriate balance: ensuring appropriate public protection whilst permitting supplier diversity and innovation in legal services delivery,” it said.

The CLC also argued that it has a track record of successfully creating a new regulatory regime and expanding its regulatory remit (to probate work) “without any prior experience in the area in question”.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) and its regulatory arm ILEX Professional Standards (IPS) have withdrawn applications for authorisation to grant Fellows the rights to conduct litigation and probate. This is so they can be reworked to reflect the move towards entity regulation.

In a letter to the Legal Services Board (LSB), IPS chief executive Ian Watson explained: “The applications have taken a long journey to submission to the LSB, having originally been prepared for consideration by the Lord Chancellor under the Courts and Legal Services Act and… were originally designed around individual professional obligations.

“The change of emphasis resulting from the Legal Services Act towards entity regulation and a licensing regime and the expectation that regulation should be outcomes focused and risk based necessitate a review of the applications which IPS has been preparing on behalf of ILEX.”

Mr Watson said IPS hoped to work with the LSB to develop the applications “so that they will present schemes of regulation and qualification which will be effective to meet the objectives set out in the Legal Services Act”.

In reply, LSB strategy director Crispin Passmore said the board recognised the work IPS had put into the applications, and said it needs to build on “the progress made so far and take the additional steps needed to become an outcomes-focused and risk-based regulator”.

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