The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) has called for a permanent law change after the Land Registry began accepting copies of lasting powers of attorney (PoAs) certified by CILEx lawyers.
The Power of Attorney Act 1971 only allows solicitors and notaries public to certify copies, but the Land Registry has said it will accept them from CILEx lawyers for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The chartered institute said the law should be amended across the board.
CILEx has long maintained that there is no reason for the distinction, and a survey of members practising in wills and probate showed that it caused them a problem an average of 10 times a month.
The research also found that it had a negative effect on law firms’ quality of service – 75% said it caused delays – client satisfaction and fees.
One respondent said: “My clients do not understand why I cannot offer this service myself. If I am qualified to act as a certificate provider and also to prepare the lasting power of attorney, then why am I not able to certify that a document is a true copy of an original document that I have already prepared?”
Another observed: “We can now become partners of law firms, have rights of audience in the courts, become judges, swear oaths as a commissioner for oaths, but we cannot certify a lasting power of attorney as a true copy of a page of the original document?”
Several respondents reported how it could be difficult to find a solicitor willing and able to certify copies in a timely manner, depending on where they worked. One explained how the PoA had to be sent to another office of the firm, meaning a delay of up to a week.
CILEx chair Chris Bones said: “We strongly welcome the Land Registry’s move and hope it will become permanent. It is showing justified confidence in the competence and qualifications of CILEx Lawyers and we urge the government to take measures to make this a permanent arrangement.
“Modernising practice in this way helps ensure affordable and timely access to legal services, particularly for the more than one million people especially susceptible to Covid-19.
“Our research shows how this outdated legislation is causing real people real problems, in an environment where concerns are already accentuated by the current pandemic.
“Removing such an illogical constraint to release more than 3,000 CILEx lawyers to meet the needs of vulnerable people can only be a good thing and we urge other areas of government and the justice system to follow the Land Registry’s example.”