Criminal litigation: rights will allow legal executives to go into independent practice
The Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) has unveiled plans to apply for the ability to grant Fellows and Graduate Members independent rights to conduct criminal litigation.
The moves come as applications to grant civil litigation and probate rights, as well as criminal litigation and advocacy rights for associate prosecutors, have been formally made to the Legal Services Board.
In a consultation issued this week, ILEX’s regulatory arm, ILEX Professional Standards (IPS), said the rights to conduct criminal litigation will allow ILEX members who have completed the qualification course to set up in independent practice if they wish.
It added: “ILEX members will have gained substantial experience of preparing cases for trial, observing other advocates presenting cases and in most instances representing clients at the police station. Under this application, ILEX litigators will be trained and assessed in advocacy skills relevant to their specialisation. The advocacy training will be supported by the litigation qualification scheme criteria. The training will enhance and improve their skills.”
ILEX chief executive Diane Burleigh said: “ILEX very much supports the work being done by IPS. It will almost complete the suite of rights that our members will need if they are to fully take advantage of new opportunities provided by the Legal Services Act and new legal business models.”
Though the litigation rights sought range across the full spectrum of criminal work, the advocacy rights mirror those that IPS can grant to members currently qualifying as legal executive advocates – appearing in the magistrates’ court, youth court, coroners’ court, and the Crown Court for bail applications and appeals or on committal for sentence.
Most of the 67 ILEX members who have gained advocacy rights have done so for criminal proceedings and IPS said “the current course provider has commented positively on the ability and skills” of those taking it.
IPS proposes that members seeking the rights would first have to apply for a certificate of eligibility, for which they would have to demonstrate a certain level of knowledge and experience. If granted, the member would then undertake a litigation skills course, and, if they want advocacy rights and are not already a legal executive advocate, an advocacy skills course.
A qualified legal executive litigator then wanting to set up in independent practice would have to apply to IPS for authorisation, and would be subject to the same practice management and accounts rules that IPS has already drawn up for civil and family litigators.
Meanwhile, IPS is also seeking to close the loophole which prevents ILEX advocates who become partners in legal disciplinary practices (LDPs) from exercising their rights of audience. Another consultation proposes to alter the current ILEX rights of audience certification rules, which pre-date the creation of LDPs, as they currently only permit employees to qualify as legal executive advocates.
This means an ILEX member cannot continue as an advocate if they become a partner. The change will not permit members to become independent advocates; they will still have to be employed by or managers in a legal practice.
The criminal rights consultation closes on 22 October and the advocacy consultation on 15 October. See www.ilexstandards.org.uk.
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