SRA regulation of CILEX could risk consumer confusion
The Law Society of England and Wales has expressed concern about how the proposed changes over the regulation of Chartered Institute of Legal Executive (CILEX) members could risk causing consumer confusion as they try to find the right legal provider.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) consultation on the regulation of CILEX members fills in some of the gaps left by CILEX’s consultation to take a more balanced view of the proposals.
However, the Law Society is concerned:
- The SRA expects these changes will not affect the reputation and standing of the identity of the solicitor profession or the way it is regulated, despite an insufficient impact assessment
- To move only some of CILEX’s members to the SRA creates regulatory fragmentation
- The SRA takes no view on CILEX’s proposal to introduce the title of ‘SRA-Chartered Lawyers’, despite the risk of confusion this would cause for consumers when choosing legal services
Law Society president Nick Emmerson said: “The Law Society is 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.”
On regulatory fragmentation, Nick Emmerson said: “The LSB has indicated it would be supportive of regulatory consolidation, and the SRA believes this move would achieve organic, well managed regulatory consolidation.
“The proposals would, however, 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.”
On solicitors’ identity, Nick Emmerson said: “A profession’s code of conduct and the range and rigour of professional training are the basis for that profession’s identity and public confidence here and abroad.
“It is essential in maintaining the separation of the CILEX and solicitor professions that CILEX retain its own code of conduct in order to recognise the difference in scope and context of a Legal Executive’s authorised practice.”
A YouGov poll carried out for the Law Society found that roughly a quarter (24%) members of the public 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 attorney (59%) with the term ‘lawyer’. In comparison, only one in 10 (12%) associated legal executives/CILEX legal professionals with the term ‘lawyer’.*
Commenting on the rebranding of Legal Executives, Nick Emmerson concluded: “If CILEX 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.”
Notes to editors
* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,236 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th –12th October 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
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