The Ministry of Justice has rubber-stamped recommendations by the Legal Services Board to broaden the number of legal licensing authorities, including the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

Justice minister Shailesh Vara (pictured) granted licensing powers to the ICAEW in the area of probate, and powers to approve alternative business structures; and regulatory powers to the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives for reserved legal activities in probate. 

Alan Kershaw, ILEX Professional Standards (IPS) chair, said the decision was important step for consumer choice. ‘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.’

The Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys and the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys were also approved as licensing authorities for ABSs.

Vernon Soare, the ICAEW’s executive director, said the decision marked ‘new ground in approving our application as the first non-legal body to be able to regulate probate services and license ABSs’.

‘Between now and the date when the relevant orders are approved by parliament, we will be working closely with ICAEW member firms to ensure they have access to the training and support they need to be able to offer these new services to consumers.’

Licensing powers were granted under paragraph 17 schedule 4 of the Legal Services Act 2007.

Around 250 firms are expected to seek accreditation from the ICAEW, of which 150 would be sole practitioners and 100 would have two or more principals. The majority of firms that indicated that they would be likely to apply for accreditation indicated that they would also increase the range of probate-related services that they would offer.

The LSB has said that in time the ICAEW will also regulate litigation and other legal services.