SRA regulation of CILEX lawyers risks confusing consumers when trying to choose the right legal services, the Law Society of England and Wales has said.
This comes in response to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) consulting on potentially including authorised members of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) in its regulatory regime. CILEX consulted on the same issue earlier this month.
CILEX approached the SRA about this potential change in 2022. The SRA Board agreed that taking on the regulation of authorised CILEX members could bring “tangible benefits” to consumers of legal services.
The SRA said this week that the proposed change would “simplify the complex regulatory landscape” and bring more consistent levels of protection and information. For example, firms owned and managed by CILEX members will have the same level of indemnity insurance as solicitors’ practices, and will publish the same range of information about their costs and services.
However, the Law Society appears to have reservations, with its president Lubna Shuja stating:
“While the SRA and CILEX have said they believe that the proposals will benefit consumers, our view is that there is a higher risk of causing greater confusion for when they are choosing the appropriate legal provider to meet their needs.”
Shuja stressed that, while many solicitors “hire, supervise, and work with CILEX lawyers”, many do not. This led to her encouraging all solicitors to make their views known on what is being proposed.
The SRA’s consultation sets out its proposed approach to the regulation of authorised CILEX members. This includes maintaining distinct identities for authorised CILEX lawyers and solicitors. To support this, a separate Code of Conduct for CILEX lawyers – which is aligned with the standards and regulations for solicitors but mindful of differences in role and context – would be introduced.
A distinct CILEX route to authorisation would also be retained, while the SRA also explains how it would handle investigations and enforcement activity.
The consultation also confirms that the costs of regulating authorised CILEX lawyers would be fully recovered from the practising certificate fees of CILEX members, and that there would be no cross subsidy between solicitors and CILEX lawyers.
Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said:
“Bringing together the regulation of solicitors and authorised CILEX lawyers has obvious benefits in terms of simplification and consistency of regulatory processes and procedures and more consistent protection to the public. We believe the changes outlined in our consultation will enable this to happen, while also allowing for a smooth transfer of responsibilities.”
The SRA’s consultation will run until 22nd November, with views invited on the rule changes outlined within.
A separate consultation run by CILEX addresses their case for re-delegating the regulation of its members to the SRA, alongside other proposed changes. This consultation is already open and runs until 5th November.
If CILEX and the SRA agree to proceed with re-delegation after the current consultations, the Legal Services Board would need to agree to the relevant changes to both organisations’ regulatory arrangements.