A solicitor MP has accused CILEX of trying to deliberately destroy the solicitor profession with proposals to change the title of legal executives to 'chartered lawyer' and switch regulator.
Conservative MP James Daly made his views of CILEX’s proposals known at a meeting of the House of Commons justice select committee, which yesterday heard evidence from CILEX chair Professor Chris Bones and chief executive Linda Ford on regulation of the legal professions.
Daly said: ‘I think what you are proposing here today is the deliberate destruction of the solicitors profession. What you are proposing is the deliberate undermining of the standards that are involved in being a solicitor with no concern for that whatsoever.’
Ford told the committee that more needed to be done to help solicitors understand how far the chartered legal executives profession has come by way of rights, standards and qualification. 'Mapping work' of the apprenticeship and crown prosecutor status has highlighted 'where there is a direct comparability of the competencies albeit delivered differently', she added.
However, Daly said CILEX was 'effectively trying to create a legal profession on the cheap, where standards don’t matter, intellectual rigour [doesn't] matter, academic standards don’t matter’. Bones told the committee the law school that CILEX operates is ‘Ofqualed and Ofsteded’ like any other institution that delivers education.
Bones acknowledged Daly’s ‘general defence’ of the solicitor profession, to which Daly replied: ‘It’s not a defence, it’s your deliberate attempt to destroy it.’
On CILEX wanting the same body to regulate solicitors and chartered legal executives, he suggested it was because CILEX ‘wants to create parity where parity doesn’t exist’.
Daly continued: 'Rather than going on the basis of the academic rigour or what solicitors are doing, you want to amend titles and you want to have the same regulator. That gets very quickly to the end game which is what you want, which effectively is to have no difference in the legal professionals whatsoever. Everybody just calls themselves this general title, “lawyer”, and that will be it.’
Ford insisted CILEX wanted ‘distinction in the legal professions’ and the system 'to recognise that where the Legal Services Act and the authorisation rights that come out of that create parity, that that parity is recognised, visible and understood by those providing and using legal services'.
Committee chair Bob Neill MP questioned whether having the SRA oversee solicitors and legal executives might blur the distinction, rather than clear it up. ‘I think it depends on how it is executed,’ Bones replied.
CILEX chiefs meet today to consider responses to its consultation on the proposals. Respondents include the Law Society, which vehemently opposes the proposed move to transfer regulation from CILEx Regulation to the SRA. The SRA recently finished consulting on regulatory arrangements.
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