CLC set to resume narrowed litigation rights battle

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9 October 2013

Kumar: recovery will speed pace of change

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) is to continue its bid to regulate the conduct of litigation but will focus on property-related litigation, it has announced.

Meanwhile, the regulator is to farm out its role as the provider of education and examinations for qualifications on the grounds that there is a “clear conflict” in the current arrangements.

It is also looking to make it easier for law firms to change regulator.

In the council’s business plan for August 2013 to December 2014, the CLC said “the excellent reputation of our regulated community is proof that specialist regulation can deliver a very effective regime. It has absorbed well the addition of probate to the scope of regulation by the CLC.

“We now want to look at whether and how we can extend our scope sensibly within the field of property transactions more broadly to provide more comprehensive quality and standards assurance to protect the consumer.”

CLC chairwoman Anna Bradley said the regulator had around 10% of the “extremely fragmented” conveyancing market. It would “focus on our core strengths… but with a clear focus on conveyancing and related property law services”.

The CLC would “continue to pursue an application to regulate the conduct of litigation but in practice this will be focused on property-related litigation as part of a package of property-related services required by consumers.”

A bid to enable CLC-regulated practitioners to conduct litigation and advocacy was rejected in April 2012 after running into fierce opposition the previous year from then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and the Law Society.

The CLC would not reveal what other areas of property law it was looking at, but a spokesman said it would be “a matter of responding to the fast-changing needs of the market”.

The business plan said the CLC would seek to support innovation by “sweeping away some of the obstacles to change that persist despite the liberalising intent of Legal Services Act”.

Among these, being the standard setter for qualifications for licensed conveyancers “but also the provider of education for those qualifications and the examiner” was an arrangement that involved “a clear conflict of interest”.

Although the CLC said it had no reason to believe the conflict had “caused any harm”, it was nevertheless “undesirable”.

The business plan went on: “There is benefit in entrusting the provision of education to specialists who will have the expertise and resources to deliver education in potentially more effective and contemporary ways.”

Another obstacle that needs to be addressed is “the disincentives to changing regulator that face legal practices”, according to the plan.

CLC chief executive Sheila Kumar said the regulator had consulted conveyancers, who said their plans included new business models as the economy recovered: “We expect the upturn to increase the pace of change in the conveyancing sector and we aim to continue to deliver our robust but supportive brand of regulation in that changing environment.”

Separately, a diversity survey has found that seven out of ten of individuals engaged in CLC practices are women. Further, a third are aged below 35 and more than a fifth were between 35 and 44.

The survey, of 1,396 individuals, also found that black and minority ethnic practitioners make up around 10% of the CLC-regulated community, compared to some 15% of the population as a whole.

Of the 88% who declared their social and educational background, four out of ten did not attend university, more than a quarter were the first generation of their family to enter higher education and a fifth were not the first in their family to do so.

More than eight out of ten attended state schools, but one in ten would not reveal details of their school.

While more than one in eight would not declare their religion and a further third were atheists, Buddhists (6%) were the second biggest group after Christians (44.5%), with Muslims in third place at 2.3%.

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