SRA proposals: What do they mean for CILEX members?
Following the publication of the SRA’s consultation on the regulation of CILEX members, CILEX vice-president Yanthé Richardson reflects on the proposals and highlights key areas with the potential to offer real benefits to CILEX members.
After CILEX published the consultation on its reform agenda over the summer, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) launched its own parallel consultation into potential changes to its regulatory arrangements so as to include authorised members of CILEX.
The consultation sets out how it proposes to regulate CILEX members in order to provide consistency for consumers of legal services whilst retaining the distinct identity of CILEX Lawyers.
The SRA contends that the proposed changes would simplify the complex regulatory landscape, making it easier for consumers to navigate and bringing more consistent levels of protection and information. Firms owned and managed by CILEX members, for example, “will have the same level of indemnity insurance as solicitors’ practices and will publish the same range of information about their costs and services”.
There would be a separate code of conduct for CILEX Lawyers, aligned with the standards and regulations for solicitors. A distinct CILEX route to authorisation would also be retained.
The consultation also confirms that the cost of regulating authorised CILEX Lawyers would be fully recovered from the practising certificate fees of CILEX members, and that there would be no cross-subsidy from solicitors.
Reading the detail of the SRA’s proposals, there were a number of areas that struck me in particular as providing significant benefits to our members and potentially tackling issues that I know have been of concern.
Changes to CPD
At present, CILEX members’ continuing professional development (CPD) records are audited by CILEx Regulation (CRL) on an annual basis. Members often raise with me and others sitting on the Professional Board the fact that solicitors do not face a similar annual process.
The SRA makes clear that it would not seek to maintain these differing approaches and that instead CILEX members would operate under the same system as their solicitor colleagues, with the SRA only making checks on a sample basis or in response to a complaint.
I know this will be met with a sigh of relief by many of you, making the process easier and, for the majority who work in organisations primarily staffed by solicitors, bring the process into line with that familiar to your colleagues.
As a CILEX Lawyer working in conveyancing – a reserved area of practice – I am very aware of the frustrations experienced by Chartered Legal Executives who wish to gain practice rights to enable them to work without solicitor supervision.
Many members have been unhappy with the way in which experienced members are assessed in order to gain practice rights, with a lot of you finding the process onerous and costly. The SRA consultation stipulates that it “will work with CILEX to ensure that appropriate routes exist to allow Chartered Legal Executives who qualified under the legacy route without practice rights to obtain them”. This is a positive step, showing that the SRA is willing to work with CILEX to look at how this process can work better for everyone.
The SRA register
The SRA proposes listing authorised CILEX Lawyers alongside solicitors. The CILEX register will be retitled the ‘Authorised CILEX Lawyers Register’ and the SRA will explore with CILEX the scope to “present it to the public alongside the Solicitors Register in a way that supports improved consumer understanding and choice as to those authorised to provide legal services”.
This would be a real positive for members. We have long fought for parity and this change will demonstrate the specialist knowledge of CILEX Lawyers and their equivalence to their solicitor counterparts.
This is an important moment for CILEX members. These are major reforms and I want as many of you as possible to have your say on the future regulation of our profession. I urge you to read the detail of the proposals put forward by the SRA and respond to the consultation which closes on 22 November.
CILEX’s own consultation closes on 5 November.