The absence of independent practice rights for chartered legal executives has created a series of “absurdities” and there is no sensible reason to deny those rights, the incoming president of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) has claimed.
Speaking at his inauguration last week, Nick Hanning – a partner at Poole firm RWPS Law – said securing independent practice rights will be a key priority for his year.
ILEX Professional Standards, CILEx’s regulatory arm, is planning to apply to the Legal Services Board for conveyancing, probate and litigation rights for chartered legal executives later this year. An application to become an alternative business structure licensing authority would then follow at some point.
“If chartered legal executives are going to be able to have the opportunity to serve the public interest on their own terms and on an equal footing with solicitors, barristers, licensed conveyancers and other lawyers they can only do so with the benefit of independent practice rights,” he said.
He detailed “absurdities” that meant a chartered legal executive can sit as a judge, but even as a qualified advocate, cannot appear in that same court unless employed by or in partnership with a solicitor; that a chartered legal executive who may be handling high-volume or highly complex property transactions cannot charge a fee for that work unless employed by or in partnership with a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer; and that a chartered legal executive who is a Commissioner for Oaths cannot certify Land Registry forms or witness a lasting power of attorney.
He concluded: “I am sure I also do not have to remind anybody here that in terms of day one outcomes, a newly qualified chartered legal executive is more experienced and has greater knowledge in their specialist area than a newly qualified solicitor.
“The fact that CILEx excludes no one who has the skill and the determination to succeed and continues to produce highly competent professional lawyers who are dedicated to working in the public interest is precisely why we were awarded the Royal Charter, but the Royal Charter is not the end of the road and there should be no sensible objection to chartered legal executives having independent practice rights.”
Mr Hanning also highlighted CILEx itself as “unique in its training and regulation of legal professionals”. He explained: “We are the only approved regulator which trains, assesses competence and imposes professional obligations on those working at every level within the profession.
“Starting with legal secretarial courses, we provide training and membership for paralegals, apprentices, lawyers, advocates and judges. No other legal profession does that.”