An explicit requirement on licensed conveyancers to treat customers fairly has been adopted by their regulator as part of a revised set of ethical standards.
The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) also published a strategic plan for 2023-25 which said these should underpin work to further improve service to clients and confidence in the sector.
The plan also outlines ambitions to grow the regulated community, including offering an alternative home to solicitors and chartered legal executives specialising in conveyancing and probate.
It says the specialist regulator will promote the CLC qualification so as to grow the pipeline of new licensed conveyancers.
The biggest change in the list of ethical principles is an entirely new principle requiring licensed conveyancers to “know each customer, treat them fairly, keep their money safe, communicate openly and truthfully, and act in their best interests”.
The need to “communicate openly and truthfully” was added following consultation with the CLC’s consumer reference group and was accepted as a “clearly useful high-level requirement”.
The CLC said the principle reflected the duty long placed on financial services firms. “This was viewed as very important at workshops held by the CLC because it underpins the effective practice of conveyancing and probate so fundamentally.”
The old principle to “comply with your duty to the court” has been removed as it was only introduced at the last review in case the CLC expanded its regulatory activity to encompass litigation and rights of audience. The CLC’s governing council has now 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 said it would use the principles to underpin an upcoming review of its code of conduct.
The consultation on the strategy found strong support for the overriding themes of promoting quality in legal services, “exploiting the CLC’s unique approach, insight and relationship with the regulated community to further improve consumer protection”; and reducing the CLC’s share of the unit cost of regulation “and bringing its specialist regulation of conveyancing and probate to bear on a larger part of the market”.
The regulator said there has been “a steady trickle” of solicitors and chartered legal executives moving over to CLC regulation in recent times.
Dame Janet Paraskeva, chair of the board of the CLC, says: “The CLC’s clear focus is on the needs of clients and the public, and we are confident that as a forward-looking regulator that encourages those it regulates to innovate in how they work, within clear ethical boundaries, it protects and promotes the client and public interest.
“The CLC enters this new strategy period in good heart, boosted by strong engagement with our regulated community and interest from other lawyers in the benefits of working with a regulator that truly understands their work and day-to-day pressures.
“It is important to review the profession’s standards regularly to ensure they are keeping up with the challenges of the times and we are satisfied as a council that the new ethical principles do this.”