The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) wants the power to regulate lawyers other than licensed conveyancers, as part of a strategy targeted at expanding its role within the property sector.
In an interview with Legal Futures, CLC chair Anna Bradley also confirmed that the regulator will in time reapply for the ability to grant members litigation rights.
The core of the CLC’s new strategy is to look at whether and how it can extend its scope within property transactions more broadly, so as “to provide more comprehensive quality and standards assurance to protect the consumer”.
Ms Bradley explained that this recognised the ambitions of CLC members to grow their market share, and not purely by conducting conveyancing work. Further, the types of new businesses approaching the CLC for licensing as alternative business structures (ABSs) are those who want to expand across the property market, she explained.
The vision for the CLC is as a specialist property regulator. “We want to extend in a small way to property related services,” she said. “It’s clear to us that there is an appetite for delivering and receiving that wider range of services… And there’s a real sense that if we don’t do it, people will be forced to look elsewhere. It is our role to help those we regulate respond to the market.”
Part of this will be seeking to remove the “silly limitation” in the CLC’s underlying statute that prevents it from regulating anyone who does not undertake conveyancing. This will then be followed, probably next year, with a renewed application for litigation rights (the Legal Services Board rejected the previous one), but consistent with the strategy, focused solely on property litigation.
The CLC’s current power to grant members the right to conduct reserved probate work fits within the overall strategy, as would have will-writing had the Lord Chancellor made it a reserved activity. The CLC will seek to encompass voluntary regulation of will-writing as part of its wider property offer.
Linked to all this will be a shift in the way the licensed conveyancers are trained (around 500 students start training each year), with Ms Bradley saying the council is “dissatisfied by being both the standards setter and provider. It would be more appropriate to have independent provision of training”.
The CLC is also looking closely at ensuring that its training is transferable across the property market, and at what other property qualifications it may in turn recognise.
The CLC, by virtue of being a standalone regulator with no representative ‘parent’ – unlike the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board, for example – has generally had an easier relationship with the supervisory regulator, the Legal Services Board (LSB).
And it has reciprocated to the extent that Ms Bradley does not agree with those saying the LSB has already run its course and should be abolished. “There broadly remains a place for the LSB,” she said. “It hasn’t finished its job.” But she also urged the supervising regulator to focus more on “follow through” – increasingly, she says, the LSB and its consumer panel “put something out there and ask the regulators to take it forward… and then move onto the next big thing”.
As to the suggestion that representative bodies should resume responsibility for large areas of regulation, Ms Bradley – who is an experienced consumer advocate – says: “From a consumer perspective, that would be a backward step, and not in line with what’s happening in other areas, such as health.”