The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) is set to apply to the Legal Services Board for the power to grant rights of audience and rights to conduct litigation to licensed conveyancers.
It is part of a package of measures aimed at putting the CLC in the position to apply to become an alternative business structures licensing authority.
Licensed conveyancers can already apply to the CLC for probate rights and can administer oaths, and a consultation paper issued by the CLC also suggests that the council should regulate licensed conveyancers in all legal services they provide. It suggests that standalone probate or litigation licences could be issued without the applicant necessarily being required to have a conveyancing licence.
This would also close up the potential regulatory loophole that allows licensed conveyancers to provide reserved legal services through practices which are regulated by the CLC, and other non-reserved legal services through separate practices which are not regulated. The CLC argues that there is a ‘significant risk that consumers will not understand fully the limitations of [the CLC’s current] regulatory reach. In the CLC’s view, this risks having a detrimental effect on the reputation of licensed conveyancers’.
These reforms would give consumers more choice, reduced prices, better access to justice, improved consumer service, greater convenience and increased consumer confidence, the consultation paper says.
Litigation rights would not be granted automatically – licensed conveyancers would have to achieve the relevant standard, either through the CLC’s education and training requirement, or by recent and relevant prior learning. The standard licensed conveyancers would be expected to achieve would be equivalent to other authorised persons, and the CLC says it would have particular regard to the standards expected of solicitors and barristers.
If consultees agree with the CLC’s approach, the council hopes to have the power to grant the new rights, regulate all of a licensed conveyancer’s work and become an ABS licensing authority all implemented by July 2011.
The CLC currently regulates around 1,000 licensed conveyancers and just under 200 practices. About 25% of these practices already have managers and/or owners who are not licensed conveyancers and not authorised persons as defined by the Legal Services Act 2007 (ie, other kinds of lawyer). This has been allowed since 2000.
The Institute of Legal Executives is also seeking probate and litigation rights for its members.