In a further step towards breaking down the traditional restraints on delivering legal services, chartered legal executives have been given the go ahead to practise independently on probate and conveyancing matters after justice secretary Chris Grayling approved the proposal last week.
Under the rule changes, chartered legal executives will be elevated to the same status as solicitors in those two reserved activities and will no longer require the supervision of an authorised person or solicitor.
While Grayling (pictured) has backed the initiative, the order implementing the change must still be signed off by Parliament, with the new regulatory powers expected to be implemented by early 2015.
The order follows the recommendation of the Legal Services Board (LSB) in December 2013, supporting the regulator, ILEX Professional Standards (IPS) in its bid for independence.
IPS chair Alan Kershaw said: ‘This is an important step for consumer choice and for recognising the standards IPS expects of those we regulate. Consumers expect their lawyers to be well trained in their area of specialism and to have a means of recourse if they are not satisfied. These orders help ensure this, and we will now work with our colleagues in Westminster to ensure their smooth passage through Parliament.’
Subject to Parliamentary approval, IPS expects to begin accepting applications from fellows of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) this summer.
The move comes after changes under the Legal Services Act 2007 have steadily dismantled the traditional understanding of how legal services are delivered, including allowing far more collaboration with non-solicitors that has led to numerous businesses, most recently Allianz, setting up alternative business structures to provide their customers with direct access to legal advice.
Changes proposed under the Legal Education Training Review, published last year, may also see the traditional route to qualification opened up to include apprenticeships and multiple points of entry.
CILEx president Stephen Gowland added: ‘Consumers can be confident that Chartered Legal Executive-run businesses will provide a competitive and high quality service, and the public will have greater choice over who they get their legal services from. Current law firms will also be able to deploy CILEx members to their full potential, and not be bound up in red tape with unnecessary sign-off requirements. As the legal services industry is changing, these orders will help make us more resilient, innovative and diverse.’