Licensed conveyancers to face explicit duty to treat customers fairly

Kumar: Extensive consultation

An explicit requirement on licensed conveyancers to treat customers fairly has been proposed as part of a new statement of ethical principles by their regulator.

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) also plans to make expanding its community – including by attracting conveyancing and probate specialists from across the legal professions into CLC regulation – a key strategic objective in the coming years.

But it has dropped the idea of expanding into regulating property and probate litigation.

A recently launched consultation explained how a review of the existing core principles of the profession found them “very tightly drafted”.

It went on: “While that is often desirable, everyone involved in the review process agreed that there was value in expanding the wording somewhat to ensure that the new ethical principles would be comprehensive, clear and more exacting.”

Among the major changes in the list is a new draft principle requiring licensed conveyancers to ‘know each customer, treat them fairly, keep their money safe, and act in their best interests’.

Reflecting the duty long placed on financial services firms, the CLC said workshops viewed this as very important “because it underpins the effective practice of conveyancing and probate so fundamentally”.

The current principle to “comply with your duty to the court” would be removed in the rewrite, the CLC proposed.

“It was only introduced at the last review in case the CLC expanded its regulatory activity to encompass litigation and rights of audience, but the CLC’s governing council has decided not to pursue this.

The principle on dealing with regulators and ombudsmen in an open and co-operative way has been expanded to set a higher standard than previously by saying CLC lawyers must “collaborate openly and truthfully”.

The consultation said: “This reflects the CLC’s action to address lapses in openness and cooperation that the CLC has seen in dealings with a small number of practitioners.”

Finally, the principle relating to diversity and inclusion has been expanded to cover the workplace as well as clients.

The CLC’s existing five-year strategy is in its final few months and the consultation also seeks views on the emerging strategic objectives for three years from 2023.

They include growing the CLC’s regulated community and broadening the CLC’s sources of funding, in part by ensuring that “any suitably qualified lawyers specialising in conveyancing and probate (FCILEx, solicitors) or relevant legal practices can easily find out how to convert to regulation by the CLC”.

Promoting quality in legal services is another draft objective, committing the CLC to promote “all aspects of improvement in the practice of conveyancing and probate, whether legislative, process change or IT-driven”.

The consultation closes on 15 October 2022.

CLC chief executive Sheila Kumar says: “The ethical principles and our strategic objectives are foundational elements of the work of the CLC. We have consulted extensively with stakeholders so that the core regulatory duties meet modern expectations.

“Our emerging strategic objectives look to ensure that we can continue to deliver regulation in a similarly modern way to give CLC lawyers and firms flexibility in how they deliver for their clients while ensuring the highest standards.

“Our constructive approach is why we have seen a steady stream of lawyers interested in switching over to us.”

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