CILEX consultation on enhancing consumer trust and confidence – Law Society response
CILEX’s consultation focuses 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 reveals 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.
“There are serious issues with the proposals, which are unsupported by evidence that they will benefit the public,” said Law Society president Nick Emmerson.
“The proposals do not consider the wider regulatory context or the serious negative impact these changes will have on solicitors and chartered legal executives.”
CILEX’s key driver appears to be raising the status of CILEX lawyers to be on the same plane as solicitors or barristers – the two most comprehensively qualified legal professions.
“This is not something that can be achieved by sharing the same regulator with the solicitor profession, or by rebranding as chartered lawyers,” Nick explained.
“Both professions are valuable within the wider landscape of legal services provision. But they are not equivalent in education and training or scope of authorisation of practice.”
A YouGov poll we commissioned found roughly a quarter (24%) of consumers thought the term ‘chartered lawyer’ would be unhelpful in understanding what services any one type of professional can offer.
Consumers associated solicitors (76%), barristers (61%) and attorneys (59%) with the term ‘lawyer’.
In comparison, only one in 10 (12%) associated legal executives/CILEX legal professionals with the term ‘lawyer’.
Re-branding chartered legal executives as ‘SRA-chartered lawyers’ is seriously misguided and appears to be a desire to raise the status of CILEX lawyers.
It also causes conflict under the Welsh Language Act 1993, as there is no separate word for ‘solicitor’ in Welsh compared to ‘lawyer’.
The proposals will move the regulation of only one part of the CILEX membership to the SRA – creating regulatory fragmentation, not consolidation.
If the proposals are implemented, CILEX would be left overseeing 9,000 non-authorised individuals – previously under the oversight of CILEx Regulation (CRL) – in a backward step for independent regulation and oversight.
Lack of support
The regulation of authorised chartered legal executives is best managed under the current bespoke arrangements with CRL, which the majority of CILEX members support.
CRL is vehemently opposing the changes and CILEX has failed to demonstrate the necessity for redelegating its regulatory functions to the SRA.
What this means for solicitors
If the proposals go ahead, they will cause consumer confusion, as it will be less clear which profession is which, and where different authorisations for practice areas apply.
The consultation closes on 5 November 2023.
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’re responding to CILEX and the SRA's consultations and are speaking with members to produce as informed a response as possible.