Consumer research on regulating legal executives flawed, Society tells SRA

Consumer research commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to help justify assuming oversight of legal executives is flawed, the Law Society warned in a letter to the regulator days before a board meeting to discuss the controversial proposal.

Society chief executive Ian Jeffery wrote to his counterpart at the SRA, Paul Philip, a week before the SRA board met to discuss responses to its consultation on regulating CILEX members. The letter was published this week alongside the minutes for last month’s board meeting.

Jeffery said the research findings, published by the SRA in December, failed to provide “reliable evidence” to support decision-making or progress public debate.

Jeffrey said:

“The ‘results’ that consumers do not have a clear understanding of legal sector regulation and favour simplicity over complexity when asked a hypothetical question and without being advised of the basic framework established under the [Legal Services Act 2007] are unsurprising.”

The research failed to establish how current regulatory arrangements cause consumer detriment that required mitigation through regulatory consolidation, Jeffery continued.

Jeffery added:

“We believe that 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.

“The CILEX and solicitor professions have different requirements and individual professional identities that are best served by individual, specifically tailored, independent regulators.

“A point on which CILEx Regulation Ltd agrees, in relation to the regulation of CILEX members.”

The Society is concerned that the SRA did not express a view on CILEX’s proposal to introduce the “chartered lawyer” title while several “important questions” remained unanswered, Jeffery said.

Jeffery continued:

“It may also be timely to reiterate that, as previously discussed, my expectation is that the Law Society Council would, if required to decide the matter on behalf of the Society as the sole shareholder in SRAL, refuse consent to changes that would be required to be made to SRAL’s Articles for any redelegation to take effect.”

According to the board minutes, SRA board members considered the letter and asked for the SRA’s consultation response to reflect “key points” from the consultation exercise.

The minutes say:

“Following discussion, the board agreed that it remained interested in regulating CILEX members and taking forward work in some areas before final decisions could be made.”

Meanwhile, in her blog reflecting on the SRA’s January board meeting, chair Anna Bradley has signalled that the transfer – if it happens at all – is unlikely to take place as soon as some observers expected.

Striking an equivocal tone, Bradley states “further work needs to be done” before a final decision, in particular developing and consulting on arrangements to regulate CILEX paralegals and students.

Bradley adds:

“This will also afford some time to consider how best to deliver the consumer benefits of regulatory simplification and avoid any potential consumer confusion.”


Kindly shared by The Law Society Gazette