The Legal Services Board (LSB) yesterday rejected a bid to allow licensed conveyancers to conduct litigation and advocacy, after more than a year of consideration.
The application from the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) to extend its regulatory reach beyond the reserved activities of conveyancing and probate had run into fierce opposition from the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and the Law Society.
However, the CLC has vowed to continue its work, with a view to succeeding with a renewed application next year.
The LSB concluded that the CLC had “not demonstrated that it has completed a detailed risk analysis for the new activities and the absence of this meant that the board could not say it was satisfied that the regulatory arrangements were appropriate nor that the CLC had sufficient competence and capability to be a regulator of these activities”.
Further, it said the CLC does not currently have the statutory power to regulate litigation and advocacy services, a view disputed by the CLC. This could be achieved through the section 69 mechanism laid out in the Legal Services Act, which allows the Lord Chancellor by order to modify the functions of an approved regulator.
As one of the LSB’s statutory consultees, Lord Judge had expressed his total opposition to the move, saying advocacy and litigation are “activities which lie outside the proper sphere of activity of a licensed conveyancer”. He also endorsed Law Society concerns over the CLC’s lack of experience to regulate
such rights, and said granting the application would put the public interest and rule of law at risk.
The two other statutory consultees, the Legal Services Consumer Panel and Office of Fair Trading, supported the application.
In his letter informing the CLC of its conclusions, LSB chief executive Chris Kenny said his team is “willing to work with you towards resolution of the issues that have led us to this decision”.
CLC chair Anna Bradley said: “This decision is of course a disappointment, but the LSB’s willingness to work with us to address the issues they have identified is very welcome and gives us comfort that we will be granted approval in due course.
“Whilst we believe it has always been the intention of Parliament to permit such an extension of scope, we acknowledge that amendment of the legislation will provide clarity on this point. We look forward to working with the LSB and Ministry of Justice to ensure the necessary amendments are made as quickly as parliamentary time will allow.
“As this legislative change is going through, we will also be able to work with the LSB to refine and develop our application and demonstrate that we have an appropriate understanding of the risks of regulating litigation and advocacy. We look forward to a successful outcome during 2013.”
Ms Bradley added: “As an organisation that was created with the intention of widening consumer access to legal services, that remains the CLC’s primary focus. We believe a successful application to regulate litigation and advocacy services will create the regulatory conditions for increased consumer choice and a more competitive marketplace.”
Meanwhile, chartered accountant June Mulroy has been appointed as the interim chief executive of the CLC while a full-time replacement for Victor Olowe is sought. Her previous roles include spells at KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers, interim chief accountant of UNESCO and seven years as executive director of the Pensions Regulator. She is expected to be in post for at least six months.