SRA arrangements for regulation of CILEX members – Law Society response

Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) proposals on regulation of Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) members could risk consumer confusion and lead to a loss of confidence in the SRA’s regulatory capacity.

The proposals

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.

The SRA is consulting 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

This consultation runs alongside an earlier CILEX consultation, which contained proposals we believe are seriously misguided and fail to consider the wider regulatory context.

Read our response to CILEX’s consultation

Our view

Law Society president Nick Emmerson 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 SRA will effectively be given the power of adjudicating any disagreements between them over regulatory matters.

“This fundamental alteration to the regulatory arrangements of the Solicitors Regulation Authority does not consider the disadvantages to members of its existing regulated community.

“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.

"The proposals would also lead to regulatory fragmentation, with only some of CILEX’s members moving to the SRA and CILEX left overseeing non-authorised individuals, which would be a retrograde step for regulation and oversight.

“A profession’s code of conduct and range and rigour of professional training are the basis for that profession’s identity and public confidence here and abroad,” Nick said.

“It is essential in maintaining the separation of the CILEX and solicitor professions that CILEX retains its own code of conduct to recognise the difference in scope and context of a legal executive’s authorised practice.”

CILEX also consulted on a change of title to ‘chartered lawyer’, which we have opposed. The SRA noted this proposal and said it will accept CILEX’s decision.

However, we believe will be an increased risk of consumer confusion and the SRA should consider this in its decision making.

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, according to a YouGov poll we commissioned.

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.

Nick said: “If CILEX members are allowed to rebrand as “SRA-regulated chartered lawyers’, there is a risk of consumer confusion.

“This proposal would negatively impact a consumer’s ability to clearly understand the legal choices available to them and choose the right legal provider for them, especially where their legal needs are multiple.”

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.

Next steps

The consultation closes on 22 November 2023.

Read the full consultation on the SRA website

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

We will work to champion your interests and make sure your views are heard by decision makers at the highest levels.

We’re responding to CILEX and the SRA's consultations and are speaking with members to produce as informed a response as possible.

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