CILEx targets total independence for regulator

Bones: Complete independence is a desirable end-goal

The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) has become the first approved legal regulator to announce its intention to give its regulatory body complete structural independence.

The body said that its initial goal was to achieve as much independence for CILEx Regulation as possible under the current rules and lobby for the changes to legislation, including to the Legal Services Act 2007, that would set the independence in stone.

Under the Act, CILEx is named as the approved regulator of Chartered Legal Executives, in the same way that the Law Society and Bar Council, and certain other professional bodies, are.

In CILEx’s case, it delegates it regulatory responsibilities to CILEx Regulation, which has operational independence secured by the CILEx Group’s governance structure and the Legal Services Board’s internal governance rules (IGR).

Responding to the board’s consultation on proposed changes to the IGR, CILEx said its intention was to take the new rules as far they would go, with no dual roles and shared services only where a compelling case exists.

It explained: “This links to CILEx’s overarching objective of achieving full structural independence in the long term and, in the medium term, achieving the greatest degree of independence as can be achieved under the current regulatory framework.”

It would require the government to amend the reference to CILEx in the Act and other legislation to achieve structural separation.

The response continued: “In moving in this direction, CILEx recognises that an incremental approach is necessary, with a gradual reduction in the numbers of shared services, and that it is also paramount that any related changes should not adversely affect the practising certificate fee”

Unlike the Law Society last week, CILEx welcomed the revised IGR, saying they “will enhance the independence of regulatory functions through greater clarity regarding the lines of separation and the terms of the relationship between approved regulators and their regulatory bodies.

“This should in itself reduce the number of scenarios which could result in dispute and the complexity of compliance/enforcement issues.”

CILEx Group chair Chris Bones said: “Assuming the IGR are clarified further so as to head off possible disputes over interpretation, they will provide a solid framework for approved regulators to work within.

“They point the way to us achieving the maximum level of independence for CILEx Regulation as is possible under the Legal Services Act.

“We believe that complete independence is a desirable end-goal so as to provide public confidence that legal regulators have no distraction from their core responsibility of serving the public interest.”

In other legal regulator news, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) has launched a project to support its regulated community in developing more formal measures to promote diversity and inclusion.

Speaking at its annual conference in London last week, CLC chair Dame Janet Paraskeva said its monitoring of the individuals working under CLC regulation revealed “a persistent challenge in relation to career progression for women and participation overall by black and minority ethnic people”.

She said: “We need to see what we can do as a regulator to have more impact and better promote diversity and inclusion. We need to see how we can improve the support we can offer to firms so you can develop inclusive recruitment and progression policies and procedures.”

The 2017/18 annual regulatory return – completed by all 212 firms that were licensed by the CLC for the full year covered – showed that 57% of firms, excluding sole practitioners, reported that they monitored the characteristics of their workforce, albeit mostly on an informal basis.

Over recent years, surveys have found that about three-quarters of the CLC-regulated workforce, but only around half of managers, are women.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) participation in the workforce, at around 9%; around 14% of the population of England and Wales identifies as BAME.

Dame Janet said the CLC has commissioned an independent research organisation to examine the current position in regulated practices more closely, work which begins next month.

“While the CLC’s regulated community compares positively with other parts of the legal profession in terms of its diversity, there is more to be done.

“The results of our survey will help us prepare for a review of our Equality and Diversity Code and provide better support to you as individuals and as managers of teams and firms,” she told delegates.

Dame Janet, a one-time Law Society chief executive, also announced that she has accepted an invitation to take on a second and final four-year term.

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