SRA to investigate regulating CILEX paralegals and students

Bradley: Still interested in regulating CILEX members

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is to consult on how it would regulate CILEX paralegals and students in the next stage of its work on assuming oversight of the legal executive profession.

Comments from chair Anna Bradley made clear that the SRA remained “interested” in the role but that more work was needed.

Earlier this month, CILEX reported strong support from members, employers and consumers for its plans to switch from CILEX Regulation to the SRA, following a consultation.

The SRA issued its own consultation last August, the outcome of which was decided at its recent board meeting.

In a blog about the meeting, which as ever was closed to the public and media, Ms Bradley explained that the SRA was “open” to the move “because we see potential consumer benefits. For instance, it could make the regulatory landscape easier to navigate and provide more consistent levels of protection and information for the public”.

That view was supported by a survey the SRA carried out last year with consumers, “who clearly found the current regulatory situation bamboozling and thought any simplification made sense”.

Researchers also found large majorities in favour of similar standards for solicitors and chartered legal executives, and similar protections for clients in the same area of law.

Ms Bradley noted that other responses to its consultation were “less supportive, with solicitors’ representatives in particular, concerned this change risked diluting the solicitor brand. Some didn’t agree that it would reduce consumer confusion”.

She continued: “CILEX’s own consultation found its members were generally positive about change. They do, however, have further questions about our approach in a range of areas, including asking whether we could regulate paralegal and student members of their profession from the outset.”

Around a third of CILEX members are Fellows, or chartered legal executives, and as such are ‘authorised persons’ under the Legal Services Act 2007, like solicitors. However, the rest of the 20,000-strong membership are paralegals and students, and not authorised persons. They are currently regulated by CILEX Regulation alongside Fellows.

Ms Bradley said: “Our board agreed that we remain interested in regulating CILEX members, but it is clear that further work needs to be done in some areas before final decisions can be taken.

“In particular, we now need to develop and consult on arrangements to regulate CILEX paralegals and students. This will also afford some time to consider how best to deliver the consumer benefits of regulatory simplification and avoid any potential consumer confusion.”

An SRA spokesman said there was no exact timescale for the second consultation.

A CILEX spokeswoman said: “As a result of our consultation process, we are now seeking additional assurances and clarifications from the SRA and remain in discussions regarding next steps and areas in which further detail is required.

“Given that CILEX is moving forward with the process to obtain Privy Council support to implement its new chartered paralegal grade, it is important that the SRA includes within its proposals specific details as to how it will regulate this group and therefore, we welcome the SRA’s announcement to consult further on this aspect of its proposed regulatory model.”

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