Chartered legal executives operate on a par with solicitors and it is only “professional snobbery” stopping them from being part of the solution to many current systemic problems, their representative body has argued.
The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) has urged ministers “to stop stalling and act now”.
In a statement about its key policy and law reform priorities for 2019, CILEx told the government that it needed to “take diversity seriously” by opening up senior judicial roles to chartered legal executives.
“The judiciary struggles to reflect the society it serves, with considerable under representation of women and ethnic minorities,” it said.
“The solution is staring government in the face but is ignored due to professional snobbery. CILEx’s membership is far more diverse than its solicitor and barrister counterparts, yet chartered legal executives, who are qualified to the same level as solicitors, are currently unable to apply for court and tribunal posts higher than district judge. It’s high time this changed.”
CILEx also called for the abolition of out-of-date laws that preclude members from providing certain services – such as proving a power of attorney by means of a certified copy – and restrict their activities in the EU.
“CILEx is asking that, when settling post-Brexit arrangements, chartered legal executives be properly recognised as lawyers alongside their solicitor and barrister counterparts in any future trade agreement with the EU, mirroring domestic parity.”
Given the path it offers non-graduates to access a legal career, CILEx has a strong interest in the government’s Trailblazer Apprenticeships policy.
“As it matures, CILEx want to ensure that no new barriers are imposed and that apprenticeships facilitate access to the profession for people from all backgrounds. Taxpayers’ money must be used effectively to develop professionals with the skills to meet the demands of the sector.”
On broader issues, CILEx said the delayed LASPO review “must recognise the importance of a healthy and dynamic legal services market, of both generalists and specialists, as part of the solution”.
It continued: “CILEx professionals are one way the state can deliver quality support and CILEx are looking to the government to recognise this in the upcoming spending review.”
President Philip Sherwood said: “Chartered legal executives and solicitors have been performing the same roles for decades, but their public standing, and many areas of our legal system, is yet to catch up with that reality.
“Three-quarters of our members are women and we have far greater representation from ethnic minorities and state-school backgrounds than other parts of the profession.
“This diversity, along with the technical specialism many of our members have, means CILEx has a unique perspective to offer policy makers. In 2019, CILEx will be pushing to have its voice heard on areas such as court reform and access to justice.
“It is also vital that in the interests of a diverse, competitive and dynamic legal market that serves both the public and business that our laws keep pace with changes to the profession.
“Competition requires a level playing field, and so we are committed to working in the public interest to remove any outdated restrictions that unjustly prevent chartered legal executives from offering to consumers the full range of services they are capable of.”