CILEX unveils plans for SRA-regulated ‘chartered lawyers’

Ford: Public confused by ‘chartered legal executive’ title

The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) has unveiled plans to introduce new ‘chartered lawyer’ and ‘chartered litigator’ titles at the same time as switching regulator from CILEx Regulation Ltd (CRL) to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

CILEX chief executive Linda Ford said ‘chartered legal executive’ would remain the protected title, but the public found it confusing and consumers would instead be instructing a ‘chartered property lawyer’ or ‘chartered personal injury lawyer’, depending on the specialism they had.

Speaking at a press conference launching the consultation paper, Enhancing consumer trust and confidence, Ms Ford said the CILEX charter would need to be amended and the Legal Services Board (LSB) would have to give its approval before regulation could be redelegated to the SRA.

She predicted that it would be “well into 2024” before the change could be implemented, if approved by the CILEX board at the end of November.

The consultation said the SRA, rather than CRL, met the public interest tests the CILEX board had set out for its regulation: scale, consumer confidence, consistency of approach and equal treatment and recognition of legal professionals.

Ms Ford said the possibility of the SRA changing its name, once it took over regulation of chartered legal executives, had been discussed in meetings.

Paul Philip, chief executive of the SRA, confirmed that he had discussed a name change for the regulator, and if “someone came up with a better name”, it should be considered.

However, he said the organisation already regulated paralegals and others who were not solicitors and the move was not “on the cards” at the moment.

He said the SRA would be consulting in the coming weeks on the details of how it could take over responsibility for CILEX members.

Mr Philip said the consultation would put “flesh on the bones” of the 12-page proposal it had made to CILEX. Given the size of the solicitors’ profession – 220,000 compared from 18,000 to 20,000 CILEX members – it would not “operationally be a huge issue”. CRL has around 20 staff.

CILEX said its reform plans would guarantee that the “distinct identity” of CILEX lawyers, paralegals and CILEX-led entities would be maintained, along with the separate CILEX route into law, specialist nature of the qualification and authorisation based on practice specialism.

The CILEX plans are split into three parts. The first would extend voting rights from CILEX fellows to all members and allow them to sit on its professional board.

The second would introduce specialist chartered lawyer titles to “make it clearer to the public that CILEX lawyers with independent practice rights have parity with solicitor counterparts in these areas of practice”.

On qualification, CILEX lawyers would be given titles linked to their specialism, such ‘chartered probate lawyer’, ‘chartered property lawyer’ or, for unreserved areas of work, ‘chartered employment lawyer’ or ‘chartered personal injury lawyer’.

For contentious work, the new titles would be ‘chartered litigator and advocate’ with ‘family’, ‘civil’ or ‘crime’ in brackets afterwards.

Following its acquisition of the Institute of Paralegals earlier this year, CILEX said it would be introducing a new career framework leading to qualification as a ‘chartered paralegal’, backed by a professional register, along with a ‘legal technologist’ membership grade that had been created for an apprenticeship being developed.

CILEX said existing regulation of chartered legal executives by CRL was already more expensive for individuals than for the SRA (£367 compared to £306).

“Regulation needs to provide an effective response to the need for increased consumer engagement, new anti-money laundering regulations, equality, diversity and inclusion data capture and analysis, and initiatives to support increased transparency, social mobility and access to justice. To do so, it will require additional resources.

“CRL faces limited growth in the number of regulated practitioners and has an entity regulation model that lacks scale, has no applicant pipeline and faces barriers associated with a lack of market recognition.

“This need for additional resources is likely to mean significant fee increases which ultimately get passed on to consumers through the cost of legal services.”

Professor Chris Bones, chair of CILEX, commented: “Following recent successes removing legislative, policy and funding barriers, we are pushing on with our reform agenda, looking at how we can create a sustainable regulatory framework with the drive towards a more diverse, accessible and equitable legal profession at its heart.”

In its initial response to the consultation, CRL said it was concerned that “several elements” did not meet the regulatory objectives, as would be made clear in its formal response.

Chair Jonathan Rees said it continued to believe that “the best way forward” for the regulation of CILEX members was to build on the “independent system” that had successfully operated over the last 15 years.

“We welcome that three out of four respondents to our recent consultation believed that the CILEX profession is enhanced by having its own regulator focused on the profession’s unique place in the delivery of legal services.”

In FAQs on its website, CILEX said its decision was based on the public interest. “It is not a matter of choice or preference of our members.

“CILEX has a duty both as an approved regulator under section 28 of the Legal Services Act 2007 and of rule 1(3) of the LSB internal governance rules to ‘periodically review and, if reasonably practicable, improve its arrangements’, and as a chartered body to act in the public interest.”

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