The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) has called for the government to end restrictions that prevent Chartered Legal Executives from providing legal services internationally.
Unlike other lawyers, Chartered Legal Executives (CLEs) are unrecognised in the EU Lawyer Recognition Directive which ensures solicitors and barristers qualifications are recognised in EU member states.
CILEx, responding to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) consultation on The Recognition of Professional Qualifications and Regulation of Professions says that when the Directive ceases to apply at the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December, any future bilateral agreements on the recognition of professional qualifications overseas must correct this historical anomaly.
CILEx explains, “Disparities between the Legal Services Act 2007 and the 1998 EU Directive mean CLEs have since been placed in a unique position: recognised as lawyers by the UK Government for domestic purposes, but not recognised by the UK Government for international purposes. The result of this anomaly has been to restrict the ability for CLEs to provide services to other EU countries and has consequently limited the UK’s own ability to effectively export legal services overseas.”
It argues that the opportunity must be taken to cut the red tape prohibiting Chartered Legal Executives from offering their services to the maximum possible market, bringing international recognition of UK lawyers in line with the reality of the profession.
CILEx also highlights the role of other out of date legislation which often unjustifiably excludes non-solicitor/barrister legal professionals from undertaking certain tasks because it does not reflect the modernisation of legal regulation introduced in the Legal Services Act 2007.
These include a bar on CILEx lawyers certifying copies of a power attorney (despite being able to certify originals) under the Powers of Attorney Act 1971.
CILEx’s response asks that any changes to the regulatory landscape consider the benefits of the CILEx approach to regulation which ensures all members are regulated for all the activities they conduct and not just those that are reserved activities under the Legal Services Act.
CILEx’s approach sees regulatory burdens imposed on a transitional scale rather than an ‘all or nothing’ system, facilitating flexible entry routes into the profession, and offering a more targeted and proportionate form of regulatory oversight.
The response states, “CILEx strongly believes that the framework in which our practitioners operates strikes a good balance, protecting consumer interests by ensuring that all legal services fall within the remit of regulatory protection, whilst also supporting social mobility aims for enabling access to the profession for a more diverse cohort of talented individuals.”
Professor Chris Bones, the chair of CILEx, says: “For too long Chartered Legal Executives have been unreasonably restricted from providing legal services internationally. This has prevented solicitor firms, the largest employers of Chartered Legal Executives, from deploying their staff efficiently, as well as denying consumers a full choice of providers.
“This is outdated and in anticipation of new agreements being drawn up post-Brexit, we are urging the government to ensure that Chartered Legal Executives are properly recognised as lawyers alongside their solicitor and barrister colleagues, mirroring domestic parity.
“In establishing a suitable and open regulatory landscape for the UK moving forward, we hope that BEIS is sensitive to the need to correct this and other barriers to practice, improving consumer choice and enhancing the reputation and competitiveness of the UK’s legal profession abroad.”