Regulation of CILEX members

Despite serious concerns, the Board of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has agreed that the SRA would regulate members of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) if CILEX decides to redelegate this to the SRA in a decision that would, if it goes ahead, irreparably change the legal regulatory landscape.

What’s happening?

CILEX is the professional membership body for CILEX lawyers, paralegals and other specialist legal professionals in England and Wales.

It’s seeking to move its regulatory function from CILEx Regulation Limited (CRL) to the SRA.

CILEX lawyers can be authorised to practise in specific areas of law, but they are not authorised in all areas as solicitors are upon qualification.

The SRA currently regulates all solicitors and most law firms in England and Wales.

CILEX and the SRA have been discussing this possibility since July 2022.

Following a Legal Services Board (LSB) intervention to resolve disputes between CILEX and CRL, CRL consulted on the issues.

CILEX consulted on proposals to change its regulator and the SRA consulted on proposals for regulating chartered legal executives.

Our view

As the professional body for solicitors, we amplify the powerful collective voice of more than 200,000 solicitors, advocating on the issues you’ve told us matter most.

We have repeatedly opposed this change, expressing concern that it would have a negative impact on consumers, the wider public interest and the regulatory objectives.

Law Society chief executive Ian Jeffery said: “We are deeply concerned that the SRA Board has given the go-ahead to regulating CILEX members, despite its own regulated community, and CILEX’s members objecting to the idea of regulatory change, and the Legal Services Consumer panel stating that the consumer case has not been made.

“For the last two years, the Law Society has advocated on behalf of our members opposing the proposal and raising concerns at the serious negative impact it will have on regulated communities, consumers of legal services and the wider public interest.

“The change will cause consumer confusion, as it will be less clear which profession is which, and where different authorisations for practice areas apply.

“This is likely to be a particular problem for those with complex legal issues, or vulnerable consumers.

“The SRA requires the Law Society’s approval for changes to the corporate objects of SRA Limited in order to be able to take on the regulation of CILEX members.

“The SRA has created the impression that this is no more than an administrative issue to be resolved.

“Instead, the Law Society has consistently said our consent cannot be assumed. This is a matter for the Law Society’s Council to decide at the appropriate time when any proposals are made and supported by a persuasive case for change.

“We are concerned that the redelegation of CILEX’s regulatory functions to the SRA could adversely affect the SRA’s ability to meet its duty to regulate the solicitor profession in a way that supports and promotes the regulatory objectives.

“This is of particular concern in light of the collapses of Axiom Ince, Metamorph, Kingly and the SSB Group.”

We identified a number of serious concerns with the proposals:

Our concerns

The proposal conflicts with the core regulatory objective of protecting the interests of consumers.

There is no evidence the proposals would support building a more diverse legal profession, increase access to justice, or expand consumer choice and competition.

The CILEX consultation lacks both evidence and an impact assessment while making points that do not, on analysis, support the proposal.

The proposals are not supported by CILEX’s own membership.

The SRA is being asked to act outside its corporate objectives and regulatory remit as the regulatory body for solicitors, under delegation from the Law Society as approved regulator under the Legal Services Act and the sole member of SRA Limited.

The proposal detracts from the principle of profession-led regulation introduced by the statutory framework in the Legal Services Act.

It suggests a false equivalence between two distinct groups of professionals, creating confusion for the consumer.

What we're doing

CILEX consultation: our response

CILEX’s consultation focused on what it sees as the benefits to its members in being regulated by the SRA, such as:

  • what it views to be a clarification of CILEX lawyers’ status in relation to solicitors and other authorised individuals
  • improved access for CILEX members to lender panels, banks, approved provider lists and insurance cover

The consultation revealed a proposal to introduce a new ‘chartered lawyer’ title to replace the current title of ‘chartered legal executive’.

CILEX believes these changes will increase the status and recognition of CILEX lawyers and increase public confidence and consumer choice.

We believe there are serious issues with the proposals.

"The proposals are unsupported by evidence that they will benefit the public,” said Law Society president Nick Emmerson.

“They do not consider the wider regulatory context or the serious negative impact these changes will have on solicitors and chartered legal executives.”

Read our response to CILEX's consultation

SRA consultations: our response

The SRA consulted on proposed changes to the SRA Standards and Regulations, including:

  • a new code of conduct for ‘authorised CILEX lawyers’ (chartered legal executives and CILEX practitioners)
  • new education and authorisation rules for CILEX members
  • how it would use existing and new investigation and enforcement powers
  • consequential changes to the SRA’s rules and regulations

The SRA has stressed that the proposed model is for each profession to be regulated and funded separately.

However, the SRA notes there will be some shared resources, such as investigation and enforcement teams, and governance arrangements (with both professions overseen by the SRA Board).

We believe the proposals could risk consumer confusion and lead to a loss of confidence in the SRA’s regulatory capacity.

Nick said: “We are concerned about the risk to the reputation of the SRA and a loss of confidence in its regulatory capacity, due to a real or perceived lack of partiality towards the inevitable competition between the professions represented by the Law Society and CILEx.

“The consultation also does not consider how the proposals may adversely affect the SRA’s ongoing duty to regulate the solicitor profession in a way that supports and promotes the regulatory objectives."

Read our response to the SRA consultation

The SRA further consulted on arrangements for regulating non-authorised CILEX members.

There is significant overlap between this consultation and the earlier consultations.

“It is not necessary to have non-authorised CILEX members regulated, as CILEX can deal with them as a membership issue,” said Law Society chief executive Ian Jeffery.

“There is also no case presented in the consultation as to why individual regulation of non-authorised members is required in the way the SRA is proposing.

“The SRA should withdraw these and the previous CILEX proposals and instead concentrate on its core regulatory responsibilities.”

Read our response to the SRA consultation on non-authorised CILEX members

Next steps

The CILEX consultation closed on 5 November 2023.

Read the full CILEX consultation

The SRA's consultation on arrangements for authorised CILEX members closed on 22 November 2023.

Read the SRA's first consultation

The SRA's consultation on arrangements for non-authorised CILEX members closed on 15 May 2024.

Read the SRA's second consultation

On 1 July 2024, the SRA Board agreed it would regulate CILEX members, if CILEX decides to redelegate this to the SRA.

Read the SRA's full announcement

We will continue working with members to inform our approach.

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