The Law Society has condemned the ‘seriously flawed’ application by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales (ICAEW) to become an approved licensing body for the grant of probate, it emerged last week.

In a letter to Legal Services Board (LSB) chief executive Chris Kenny, the Society accuses the institute of failing to achieve the separation of representative and regulatory functions required by the Legal Services Act.

The letter adds that, unlike the regimes agreed between the LSB and existing licensing bodies, the ICAEW has not proposed regulatory arrangements that ensure ‘public confidence in regulation’ and ‘independent regulation in the public interest’. The letter claims the ICAEW proposal was likely to allow ‘professional self-interest (to) overcome the public interest’.

The letter also says that the ICAEW’s application ‘significantly underestimates’ the range of work undertaken in non-contentious probate.

Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson (pictured) said: ‘The arrangements for regulatory independence at the ICAEW are seriously flawed and seem to be little different from those that applied at the Law Society prior to the Legal Services Act – the probate committee, in effect, reports to the council of the ICAEW.  

‘We remain at a loss to understand how such an arrangement could be acceptable for the ICAEW but not the Law Society.’

Invited by the LSB to respond, the institute said the ‘separation of the regulatory and member function’ had been much discussed. The ‘primacy of public interest’ has been ‘built into the DNA’ of the accountancy profession for ‘over a century’, the ICAEW added.

It also denied that its application underestimated the range of work in non-contentious probate, saying that the Law Society underestimates the amount of work already carried out by accountants.