CILEX moves to transfer oversight to SRA

CILEX moves to transfer oversight to SRA

CILEX (the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) is in talks with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to explore a proposal to transfer the regulation of its members from its own regulator, CILEX Regulation Ltd (CRL), to the SRA.

The aim is to ensure that the regulation of the 20,000 CILEX members continues to be both independent and financially sustainable.

The Legal Services Act 2007 and the work of the CRL have “raised the status of CILEX professionals”, according to CILEX. This has allowed them to become partners (there are now around 1,000), set up their own firms, and gain independent practice rights. Last year saw the launch of a new route to qualification that for the first time integrates practice rights.

However, the number and variety of models involved in the regulation of legal services can be confusing for consumers and professionals alike, say CILEX, adding that regulation needs to help build understanding and confidence as to the choice of legal professionals available.

CILEX believes that the SRA has the scale and reach to provide effective regulation. It already sets clear standards for those that it regulates and all who work in SRA-regulated firms – which around 70% of CILEX practitioners do. Dealing with only one regulator has the potential to make life easier for employers too.

At Tuesday’s Annual General Meeting, CILEX informed members that it had written to the SRA to initiate formal talks following consideration of CILEX’s Case for Change. This followed a review and validation of the proposal by Chris Kenny, former Chair of the Legal Services Board (LSB), who concurred with the need for action to address the issues raised. CILEX has subsequently notified the LSB that it is discharging its duty as an Approved Regulator under the Legal Services Act.

Professor Chris Bones, the chair of CILEX, said:

“As a first step, we have asked the SRA to explore the viability of an alternative model. If having explored the proposal, we consider it to be able to offer the enhanced public interest benefits outlined in the Case for Change and to continue to provide effective regulation for CILEX members, we will run a consultation on the impact and implications of the proposed change.

We believe that bringing the regulation of CILEX members into the SRA could give clients and others real clarity and confidence that regardless of who does the work, the outcomes will be of the same high quality.”

Any new model would need to preserve the distinct identity of CILEX Lawyers, CILEX Paralegals and CILEX Advanced Paralegals and retain the CILEX route to qualification. Importantly, there would be no cross-subsidy between CILEX practitioners and solicitors on the cost of regulation.

Both solicitors and CILEX members would continue to have their own representative bodies – the Law Society of England and Wales and CILEX respectively – which would continue to be the approved regulators under the Legal Services Act.

Professor Bones added:

“Our decision to explore the possibility of a new model of regulation with the SRA is driven by our desire to ensure independent regulation is sustainable and that consumer needs are met. We will only pursue a change of regulation if we are satisfied that such a change achieves both.”

Any changes to the delegation of the discharge of CILEX’s regulatory functions would require approval from the LSB in accordance with the statutory processes set out in the Legal Services Act 2007, following public consultation.

Jamie Lennox