The Lord Chief Justice has spoken out against licensed conveyancers being granted rights to conduct litigation and advocacy.
Lord Judge said they were areas of work which lie outside the proper sphere of activity of a licensed conveyancer and he could see no strong public interest in giving them those rights.
The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) has applied to the Legal Services Board (LSB) for authorisation to grant rights to conduct litigation and advocacy, although it has said it will only do so in an incremental fashion, such as by restricting permissions to certain areas of law or courts.
A report by the CLC on a recent consultation on outcomes-focused regulation said Lord Judge told them that reserved legal activities must be regulated in the public interest and not merely in the consumer’s interest of reduced cost and greater competition.
He considered that access to the legal profession is adequately provided through the Institute of Legal Executives, “and therefore finds little justification for a parallel scheme administered by the CLC”.
Lord Judge is also a statutory consultee of the LSB’s on applications by regulators to extend the range of their reserved legal activities.
In response, the CLC pointed out that section 53 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 explicitly provides for it to be authorised to regulate advocacy and litigation services, and that since November 2008 it has regulated licensed conveyancers offering probate services.
It said: “The CLC accepts that the public interest is one of the factors which the LSB will need to take into account in assessing the CLC’s application. We consider that an extension of our regulatory scope is positively in the public interest.”
The Law Society also told the CLC that it was “fundamentally opposed” to the council regulating in this area. The report said: “[The society] considers that the CLC does not have a full grasp of the issues involved with regulating varied areas of legal work and that we are not capable of regulating in this area. The CLC is confident that it can demonstrate it has the necessary capability and capacity to regulate the extended scope of services.”
The Legal Services Consumer Panel, another a statutory consultee on applications to extend reserved legal activities, supports the CLC’s bid but told the LSB last week that it was concerned that the ongoing monitoring regime proposed by the CLC lacks “an external and independent check on the technical competence of litigation and advocacy work”.