Giving the Solicitors Reguation Authority power to oversee legal executives and changing their title to 'chartered lawyer' will confuse the public, the Law Society has warned.

Responding to CILEX’s consultation on switching regulator, Chancery Lane said in no uncertain terms it does not support the proposals and believes chartered legal executives are best managed by their current regulator, CILEx Regulation.

Changing authorised legal executives’ title to ‘chartered lawyer’ will add another layer of confusion and complexity to consumers’ ability to distinguish between legal executives and solicitors, the Society said.

Last month the Society polled 2, 236 people on their understanding of legal titles: three-quarters of respondents associated the term ‘lawyer’ with solicitors and 60% associated the term ‘lawyer’ with barristers. Only one in 10 associated the term ‘lawyer’ with legal executives or CILEX legal professionals.

The Society said: ‘The proposals appear to be an attempt by CILEX to rebrand some of its members to achieve an appearance of equivalence with solicitors in the eyes of consumers. While some legal executives are authorised to provide services in discrete areas such as conveyancing and probate amongst others, they should not be represented to the public as equivalent to solicitors because their knowledge, training, experience and scope of practice is limited to specific areas.’

Publishing a register of legal executives alongside details of solicitors on the SRA’s website would further confuse the public, the Society said.

‘CILEX and the SRA have only considered in the proposals how to present information relating to legal executives, such as publishing which specific area legal executives are authorised to practise in. However, it would also need to be clearly explained that solicitors are authorised to practise in all areas, otherwise there would be no clarity for consumers.

‘This proposed approach also assumes that consumers would know their legal issue or issues well enough to judge which type of practitioner would be qualified to adequately meet their legal needs in respect of all the relevant issues.’

CILEX’s consultation suggests a single register could be a longer-term objective. The Society said this would undermine the SRA’s commitment to ensuring separation of the professions.


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