SRA sets out plans to regulate CILEX paralegals and students

SRA: Persuaded by merits of regulating all CILEX members from the start

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has outlined its plans to regulate the thousands of Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) members who are paralegals and students.

It initially intended just to take on the regulation of chartered legal executives – officially ‘authorised persons’ – and work towards including non-authorised members at a later date, but said yesterday that, if CILEX decided to switch regulator, “we are persuaded by the merits of implementing arrangements for all CILEX members at once”.

Some 47% of CILEX’s 17,500-strong membership are paralegals or students and thus non-authorised persons.

CILEX has yet to decide whether to re-delegate its regulatory function from CILEX Regulation to the SRA. In January, it reported strong support in a consultation from members, employers and consumers.

The SRA held its own consultation on how it would work, the full outcome of which was also published yesterday after the initial announcement was published in the SRA chair’s blog.

The response document said “we remain open to the idea of regulating CILEX members” as the proposals “have the potential to reduce confusion for consumers and provide more consistent levels of protection and information for the public”.

However, work was needed on various outstanding issues, including consulting on regulating non-authorised CILEX members.

The new consultation said 75% of all CILEX members already worked in SRA-regulated firms; 87% of non-authorised CILEX members either work in those firms or in those authorised by CILEX. Around 1,000 non-authorised members work outside SRA or CILEX regulated firms, although some will be supervised by an SRA or CILEX authorised person.

The SRA said regulating all CILEX members would simplify the regulatory landscape and ensure they all worked to the same standards. It added: “The proposals will protect the public interest by ensuring the sustainability of regulation for this group.”

Not implementing the proposals, by contrast, would leave two different regulatory systems for CILEX members, to the detriment of the public.

“We are not expecting these changes to affect the solicitors’ profession or the way it is regulated,” the SRA went on.

“As these CILEX members are not currently authorised or seeking to become authorised at these levels to provide reserved legal activities, we will not ‘authorise’ their ability to become members. We will have the limited role of regulating their conduct on behalf of CILEX.

“Their titles will not change and will not include reference to the SRA. Our communications will distinguish between solicitors, authorised CILEX members and non-authorised CILEX members.

“This is to help make sure the public are aware of differences between them and make informed choices when accessing legal services. We recognise the crucial importance of this issue should re-delegation proceed and we will work closely with our stakeholders in this area.”

The SRA said it remained “confident” that we it could ring-fence costs and ensure appropriate charging to solicitors and CILEX members separately.

The consultation said most of the regulatory arrangements the SRA has already set out for authorised CILEX members would apply to non-authorised ones, including adherence to a new SRA CILEX code of conduct.

Where the SRA’s powers under the Legal Services Act 2007 do not extend to non-authorised members, they will instead be considered as contractual obligations to which they become subject at the point of membership.

“The necessary provisions to require cooperation with the SRA and to allow enforcement of SRA disciplinary decisions would be included in the terms of membership by CILEX.”

On disciplinary matters, the SRA and CILEX would seek a statutory instrument to give all CILEX members the same rights of appeal against SRA sanctions to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal as solicitors and SRA-regulated firms currently have.

The SRA would have no role in assessing the continuing competence of non-authorised CILEX members. However, if CILEX routinely checks CPD as part of its membership function, “it will share with us any information from these checks that may raise regulatory issues”.

If ultimately the SRA and CILEX agree to proceed with re-delegation, they will then need to seek the Legal Services Board’s approval, while the SRA will also have to work with the Law Society on changes to its articles of association.

“We would therefore not expect to be in a position to take on these new functions until spring 2025 at the earliest,” the consultation said.

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