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SRA removes barrier to transfer between regulators

13 July 2017

The CLC is pleased that the SRA has decided to remove a barrier that has prevented lawyers from exercising their right to choose the most appropriate regulator for their business. The CLC’s regulation of specialist conveyancing and probate lawyers delivers high standards of consumer protection and supports innovation in the delivery of legal services.

The freedom to choose regulator was created by the Legal Services Act 2007 but was not a practical option for SRA-regulated firms because of the SRA’s requirement that a firm transferring to another regulator should take out run-off professional indemnity insurance cover as if it was closing. This made transfer between regulators prohibitively expensive. Now that requirement will be lifted, subject to approval by the Legal Services Board, by  1st October 2017.

We are already working with a number of firms who have been waiting for this announcement from the SRA. Any other firm considering moving into the CLC’s regime for specialist conveyancing and probate lawyers should contact us as soon as they begin to think about the possibility.

We always advise firms to discuss their plans with us at an early stage so that we can give them guidance about the best way to take their application forward and whether CLC regulation is right for their firm. This is just as important for established firms looking to move between regulators as for start-ups just entering the market.

Read the SRA’s statement

Disciplinary sanctions: consultation

10 July 2017

The CLC, the regulator of specialist conveyancing and probate lawyers has today published proposed guidelines for sanctions to be used by its Adjudication Panel when making decisions in disciplinary cases.

The new guidance will help the Adjudication Panel, ensuring consistency and a common view of the appropriate level of sanction in different cases. It will also give stakeholders confidence in the robustness of regulation by the CLC.

Very importantly, the Sanctions Guidance will be a clear indicator of the CLC’s view of the gravity of different types of breaches of its Code of Conduct.

 

Chief Executive of the CLC, Sheila Kumar said: ‘Establishing a Sanctions Guideline policy is an important step for the CLC and its Adjudication Panel.  Our proactive approach to helping firms deal with issues before they threaten the client or public interest means that comparatively few cases escalate to a degree of seriousness that means they reach the Panel for imposition of sanctions. Our proposed approach enhances transparency to support consumer confidence and to inform our regulated community and stakeholders better about the rigour of our regulatory approach.

‘I hope that many CLC lawyers and many of our partners in regulation and across the conveyancing and probate sector will take the opportunity to comment on our proposals.’ 

Find out more and have your say

CLC publishes Action Plan for better-informed consumers in response to CMA recommendations

29 June 2017

  • Council for Licensed Conveyancers to consult in autumn 2017 on detailed proposals for increasing transparency of price and service quality information for consumers
  • Expectation that a market solution will mean that limited regulatory action is needed to implement the CMA’s recommendations
  • The regulator and representative bodies for specialist conveyancing and probate lawyers see opportunities for firms to engage potential clients in new ways

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers has today published its Action Plan to implement the recommendations from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). These are aimed at ensuring that consumers are able to make well-informed choices of legal service provider.

The key recommendation from the CMA asks the legal services regulators to ‘deliver a step change in standards of transparency to help consumers (i) understand the price and service they will receive, what redress is available and the regulatory status of their provider and (ii) compare providers’.

The CLC has been talking to the specialist conveyancing and probate lawyers it regulates about this agenda since 2016. It has also been discussing with the Society of Licensed Conveyancers innovative ways to meet the CMA’s expectations that serve consumers and help legal businesses. How the market responds will be a consideration in how far CLC needs to be prescriptive by way of regulation. We are heartened by the considerable progress there has been since our early consultation activity in January.
 

Chief Executive of the CLC, Sheila Kumar, said: ‘The recommendations from the CMA are clear and actionable. We have been listening carefully to conveyancing and probate specialists around England and Wales at conferences and in discussion groups for over six months about how we should implement those recommendations. Our discussions have helped us to develop an approach to improving information for consumers that we believe holds opportunities for firms regulated by the CLC as well as delivering improvements in consumer choice. We look forward to continuing those conversations when we consult on detailed proposals in the autumn.’

Chair of the Society of Licensed Conveyancers, Simon Law said: ‘The Society of Licensed Conveyancers is delighted that the CLC has been engaging with us and with our members so constructively so that we can work together to identify a pragmatic approach to the CMA’s recommendations. The Society is working with potential providers of a system that will deliver transparent and comparable information to help clients choose their legal service provider and give conveyancing specialists a new tool to win clients.’

Rob Hailstone of Bold Legal Group said: ‘It will be vital that conveyancers review and comment on the CLC’s proposals in the autumn. We must take this opportunity to continue to shape the practice of conveyancing and put businesses onto a firmer footing by harnessing the new transparency requirements in order to secure business. If the profession fails to make the new regime work, it may be that a different one will be imposed on us in the future, with who knows what impact.’

Find out more

 

Streamlining and strengthening the practice approval process

15 May 2017

We’ve been licensing Alternative Business Structures (ABS) since October 2011. In that time, we’ve gained a great deal of experience in the different regimes for ABS firms and Recognised Bodies (RB) - often called traditional firms.

It has become clear that, contrary to fears expressed by some at the time the Legal Services Act introduced ABS, the new type of firm poses no greater risks to the public and consumer interest than the traditional model. Experience shows, though, that there are aspects of the ABS regime that it would be sensible to extend to Recognised Bodies.

The CLC is now consulting on proposals to streamline and strengthen the policies and processes for licensing entities to carry out conveyancing or probate work. We are seeking views on our intention to:

  • Require all firms (not just ABS) to appoint a Head of Legal Practice and Head of Finance and Administration. 
  • Issue entity licences for RBs for an indefinite period (as is already the case for ABS firms)
  • End differential application fees for new RB and ABS entities
  • Make improvements to the authorisation process, simplifying the information to be submitted and revising the ‘fit and proper’ test for managers, owners, HoLP, HoFA and CLC Lawyers to ensure it is proportionate and targeted

The first proposal will bring greater clarity to accountability for compliance in Recognised Bodies without significantly increasing the regulatory burden. Our other proposals will reduce the regulatory burden and lower barriers to entry to the market with no reduction in our high levels of consumer protection.

Our consultation closes on Friday, 30th June.

Read the consultation paper ‘Review of the CLC’s Authorisation Requirements for Entities’ 

Value for money regulation

12 May 2017

Three-quarters of CLC lawyers think that regulation by the CLC provides value for money and supports innovation and growth in their business. Now the CLC has launched a consultation on the objectives and principles that should govern the setting of licence and practice fees. This follows a 20% reduction in entity fee rates in 2016.

A key proposal is to maintain consistency in regulatory fees year on year, so that firms are able to plan with confidence that rates will not see-saw.  But we are committed to making reductions in rates whenever that is possible in a way that we can be certain is sustainable.  

The CLC’s fee rates are calculated on the turnover of firms. As the turnover of CLC firms continues to rise, the CLC believes it will be able to reduce fees. Our tight control of the cost of delivering tailored regulation of specialist property lawyers will also help.   

There could be exceptional circumstances, such as a prolonged economic downturn, when a different approach is required. If the CLC’s minimum reserves were not able to absorb the impact of such an event, then rates might need to increase.

The CLC is committed to delivering proportionate, targeted regulation and that includes keeping the financial burden of regulation to a sustainable minimum. 

The consultation closes on Friday, 23rd June. 

Reporting on 2016: Regulating specialist conveyancers and probate lawyers

04 May 2017

Looking back on 2016 as the Council for Licensed Conveyancers published its Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year, Chief Executive Sheila Kumar said: ‘The LSB’s assessment of our performance as well as the very positive views of those we regulate show that we are on a very firm footing as we begin to develop a new strategy for the coming years. We are looking to build on our considerable strengths, responding to changing risks in the market place to continue to ensure high standards of consumer protection while we support innovation in the delivery of conveyancing and probate services. We are committed to keeping the regulatory burden to the lowest possible level, In 2016 we were able to cut entity fee rates by 20%.’

The CLC’s latest Annual Report and Financial Statements look at the calendar year 2016. The highlights of the year include:

  • Three-quarters of CLC lawyers said that being regulated by the CLKC is either ‘extremely’ or ‘mostly‘ beneficial to their business.
  • 97% of CLC lawyers said their experience of the annual licence renewal round was either ‘good’ or ‘very good’.
  • Entity fee rates were cut by 20%.
  • The CLC’s minimum standards for professional indemnity insurance were amended to include run-off cover free at the point of closure of a firm.
  • The Legal Services Board gave the CLC the most positive assessment of all of the front line regulators.

Read the CLC’s Annual Report 2016

Read the CLC’s Annual Financial Statements 2016

HSBC raises maximum loan threshold for dual representation by sole practitioners

31 January 2017

On January 30th 2017 HSBC made a change to their Residential Purchase Conveyancing Policy, increasing the maximum loan threshold for CQS and CLC sole practitioner firms to act for both the customer and the bank via dual representation. 

The threshold has increased from £150,000 to £350,000. 

This change applies to new applications from that date.

There is some confusion in relation to the Law Society's CQS scheme because of a report in the Law Gazette. Licensed Conveyancer firms can act in HSBC cases in the same way as Solicitor firms that are part of the Law Society’s CQS Scheme. Licensed Conveyancer firms do not need any accreditation beyond their status as regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.  

HSBC tells us that, for customers who have already completed an application prior to 30th January 2017, and their choice of conveyancer meant separate legal representation was required, they will continue with their original conveyancing choice based on the £150,000 threshold. 

Sheila Kumar, Chief Executive of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers said: 'The CLC is very pleased that HSBC treats Licensed Conveyancer firms on an equal footing with Solicitor firms that are part of the CQS.  Licensed Conveyancers do not need a CQS-style accreditation scheme because they are by their nature specialists, benefiting from specialist training in Conveyancing and operating within a system of tailored regulation.'

CLC Responds to Competition and Markets Authority Report on Legal Services

15 December 2016

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) has reacted to the release today of the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) Market Study on the legal sector.

The CMA’s key recommendations for front line regulators are:

  1. Action to deliver a step change in standards of transparency to help consumers (i) to understand the price and service they will receive, what redress is available and the regulatory status of their provider and (ii) to compare providers.
  2. Promote the use of independent feedback platforms to help consumers to understand the quality of service offered by competing providers. Regulators should provide guidance to providers on how they should engage with public reviews.
  3. To facilitate the development of a dynamic intermediary market through making data more accessible to comparison tools and other intermediaries.
  4. Development of a consumer education hub.

In relation to recommendations (a) and (b), the CLC is shortly to issue consultations on increasing the transparency of prices and how consumers can be helped to compare providers following consideration of the issues by the governing Council. It has already announced a Smart Badge scheme that will increase online security for firms and their clients and help inform clients about the regulation of Licensed Conveyancers and routes for redress. This will roll out from January 2017.

The CLC has made available basic information about the regulated community for two years now (recommendation (c)). It is open to be used by operators of price comparison websites.

In relation to (d), the CLC is part of the group of front line regulators that operates the Legal Choices website and will contribute to its further development.

The CMA also made two short-term recommendations about the regulatory framework that are relevant to the CLC:

  1. The MoJ should undertake a review of the independence of regulators.
  2. Regulators should take action to reduce regulatory costs.

Taking (b) first, the CLC this year cut entity licence fee rates by 20% and its routes to qualification as a lawyer (Authorised Person in terms of the Legal Services Act 2007) remain the best value and most accessible route to a career in the law and are under new, independent provision. Those regulated by the CLC say it delivers value for money and helps their supports innovation and growth in their businesses (see here). The CLC is committed to keeping costs under review to keep the direct financial burden as well as the compliance burden of regulation to the minimum compatible with effective consumer protection.

In relation the (a) the CLC is of the view that widely understood and serious concerns about the lack of independence of some front line regulators that are part of larger representative bodies require more practical and immediate action than a review by the MoJ. The LSB has powers from the Legal Services Act 2007 that allow it to take action to secure independent regulation and it should now use those powers.

Commenting on the CMA’s report, Chair of the CLC Dame Janet Paraskeva said: “We are grateful to the CMA for moving forward the conversation on price and service transparency and comparison. The Council of the CLC has already debated these issues and we will begin consultations soon on a range of possible ways forward.

“We are also pleased that the CMA shares our view of the need for a review of the scope of legal services regulation and a move to a more rational, risk-based approach. We have been pressing for this for some years and so we also welcomed the LSB’s publication of its ‘Vision’ for the future regulation of legal services that sets out a similar approach.

“Before we can move forward though, it is vital that the other front line regulators of legal services enjoy the same regulatory independence that we do. That is in the public and consumer interest. The CMA recommends the MoJ undertake a review of independence, but this is unnecessary in our view. The LSB has powers to secure independent regulation. Its Chair has publicly acknowledged the case for action, as the CMA now does. With the government under a great deal of pressure on other fronts, we urge the LSB to take action now to establish regulation independent of representation and so continue the process of reform to fulfil the purpose of the Legal Services Act. To do so would be a profound and fundamental step that would increase public and consumer confidence in the legal professions.” 

CLC Business Plan for 2017 and Annual Regulatory Return Analysis published

25 November 2016

The CLC has today published two documents that will underpin its work in 2017 and beyond: the Annual Regulatory Return (ARR) Analysis 2016 and its business plan for 2017.

The analysis of the Annual Regulatory Return (ARR) looks at a great deal of information provided by firms regulated by the CLC about the systems and processes, staffing, clients and pricing. It is a detailed study of the regulated community that will inform the CLC’s work to protect consumers and foster innovation and competition legal services.

The CLC’s Business Plan sets out the CLC’s priorities for 2017, beginning with completion of the review of the CLC’s Handbook with a view to enhancing consumer protection and fostering innovation and competition in legal services. This will be accompanied by enhanced compliance support for firms. The CLC will also explore how to support consumers better in their choice of legal services provider and work with others to drive forward a review of the regulatory framework to include independence of all regulatory functions from representative bodies and consideration of the scope of regulation to replace the outdated system of ‘reservation’ with a risk-based approach.

Chief Executive of the CLC, Sheila Kumar said: “Insight from our surveys of the firms we regulate is invaluable. It informs our assessment of regulatory risks, supports policy development and identifies changes in the conveyancing and probate markets. This year’s Annual Regulatory Return contains a great deal of information about pricing and consumer engagement and so will help inform our response to the recommendations we expect from the Competition and Markets Authority’s legal services market study. It has also highlighted areas where further work is needed with the regulated community to embed good practice around diversity and inclusion to help firms offer good career progression opportunities to women and BME staff.  Other areas of focus highlighted by the ARR include succession planning, client care and compliance with anti-money laundering regulations.

“In an independent study in early 2016, those we regulate reported that the CLC provides value for money and supports innovation and growth in their business and said that being regulated by the CLC is either ‘extremely’ or ‘mostly’ beneficial to their business. We aim to build on that success by continued close engagement with our regulated community and other stakeholders.”

Chair of the CLC, Dame Janet Paraskeva said: “The CLC’s Business Plan for 2017 is ambitious as we look to build on the very significant advances of the past three years. Following the successful reform of professional indemnity insurance that enhanced consumer protection and reduced the burden on firms, and the 20% cut in entity fee rates, we will complete our comprehensive review of the Handbook with the same objectives in mind.

“We have already begun work to look more closely at price transparency and consumer feedback as part of our focus on the consumer. At the same time, we have been pressing for the independence of all regulators as the vital first step in reform of legal services regulation to serve the public interest better. We are anxious to ensure that we have in place the best possible framework so that legal business can serve individuals and businesses better and meet the challenge of Brexit.”

Read the CLC’s Business Plan for 2017

Read the ARR Analysis 2016

Four new members appointed to the CLC's governing Council

05 October 2016

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers, the specialist property law regulator, has today announced the appointment of four new members to its governing Council, which has been chaired by the Rt Hon Dame Janet Paraskeva since April 2015. The Council has a lay, non-lawyer majority and includes professional lawyer members currently working in conveyancing or probate.

Three of the new appointments are of lay members and one is of a professional member.  Standard terms for Council appointments are for up to four years. The terms of two of the new appointees will be set by the Council to stagger turnover on the body.

Alan Cogbill – Lay Member – Appointed for four years from 1st October 2016

Alan Cogbill has held a number of senior policy and finance roles in government, working directly with Ministers to frame and deliver strategy, policy, operations and major change programmes in the Home Office, Lord Chancellor’s Department/Department for Constitutional Affairs, and Wales Office.  Alan has particular interests in and experience of public procurement of legal services and economic incentives in public and private supply.

Alan’s board experience includes being a Trustee of:

  • Avenues Trust Group
  • Phoenix Futures

Alan pursues his interest in government and constitution issues as a UCL Constitution Unit Senior Research Associate, and is an external advisory board member of the University of Cardiff's Wales Governance Centre.

Quinton Quayle – Lay Member – Appointed for four years from 1st October 2016

Since retiring from HM Diplomatic Service in 2010 after 33 years’, including postings to Romania and Thailand, Quinton Quayle has gained a wealth of experience in both the public and private sectors.

Quinton’s experience on boards in a Public Interest or Non-Executive capacity includes:

  • NED, 2gether NHS FOUNDATION Trust
  • Member of the Governing Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council
  • Member of the Queen’s Counsel Appointments Panel
  • Member of the Regulatory Board, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
  • Member of the Governing Council,  Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland

Jonathan Mounteney – Professional Member - Appointed from 1st May 2017, term to be decided

Jonathan is a commercial solicitor/conveyancer with 22 years’ experience both in-house and in the private sector.  Jonathan’s specialisms include:

  • IT arrangement, in particular procurement of software and systems
  • General contracts, especially distribution related
  • Intellectual property management, especially trade mark and brand related
  • Commercial litigation and property law

Jonathan has also served as Chair of Manchester City Mission.

Colin Wilby – Lay Member – Appointed from 1st May 2017, term to be decided

After a career in the commercial sector, Colin has spent the last 10 years in Non-Executive roles with public or social organisations, including regulatory bodies, NHS, housing and Probation services. He has also worked extensively in professional standards as an independent panel member representing the public/consumer interest. Colin is currently Board Member and Chairman of West Kent Housing Association and a Lay Member with the Employment Tribunals, Bar Tribunals & Adjudication Service and Financial Reporting Council. He has been a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development for 35 years and was appointed Fellow in 2008.

Chair of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, Dame Janet Paraskeva said: ‘While I am very sorry to see our existing Council Members go as they complete their second four-year terms or move on to new challenges, I am very excited that we are being joined by a group that will bring such diverse experience to our work.

‘The CLC has achieved very significant change and streamlining in recent years. We have improved our services to consumers and the profession we regulate and the effectiveness of our approach to regulation has been recognised by the Legal Services Board in their most recent Regulatory Standards Report. In 2017 we will be continuing our review of the provisions of our Handbook. Alan, Quinton, Colin and Jonathan will offer fresh insight and bring new approaches to the work of the CLC as we continue to develop and exploit the strengths of activity-based regulation.’