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Making the most of the Legal Services Act 2007

14 July 2016

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers today urged the SRA to dismantle a major barrier to firms exercising freedoms created by the Legal Services Act 2007.

Responding to the SRA’s consultation, ‘Removing barriers to switching regulators’ the CLC welcomed proposals for waivers of the automatic requirements for run-off cover to be purchased when a firm transfers from SRA regulation to another front-line regulator. The specialist property law regulator pressed the SRA to ensure that it then dismantles barriers completely as part of its review of professional indemnity insurance that is promised for later this year.

Chief Executive of the CLC, Sheila Kumar said: ‘The SRA’s proposals, which will enable firms to exercise a choice that was given to them by Parliament in the 2007 Act, are very welcome. Requiring firms that transferred from SRA regulation to take out run-off cover when they were continuing in business and had ongoing indemnity insurance was not justifiable. It has acted to stop practices being able to choose a regulator that is tailored to their work. These changes come in the wake of the CLC’s own improvements to its PII regime which now includes run-off cover free at the point of closure for all firms under the new Participating Insurers Agreement and so further enhances consumer protection.’

The CLC’s response to the SRA’s consultation is available on the CLC’s website and the consultation itself is available on the SRA website

CLC Commentary in Legal Press

06 July 2016

The Chair of the CLC, Dame Janet Paraskeva and Chief Executive, Sheila Kumar, have had articles published in the legal press that look at regulation, market entry and competition. 

The articles look at the regulatory burdens placed on lawyers by a range of organisations that are not subject to the rigour of oversight by the Legal Services Board and the need to respect the Regulatory Objectives of proportionality, fostering competition in particular. 

You can read the piece by Dame Janet on the Times website (behind their paywall)

The piece by Sheila Kumar is on Legal Futures

Council for Licensed Conveyancers consults on changes to education and training

28 June 2016

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) has today launched a consultation on proposals that will see delivery of education and training move away from the regulator. The Council will continue to set the standards to be achieved to apply for a licence to practise as a Licensed Conveyancer or Licensed Probate Practitioner. The CLC has appointed SQA, a leading Awarding Organisation, to oversee the delivery of education.

The numbers training to become a CLC lawyer have increased substantially in recent years and further growth is targeted to help meet demand in the sector for more trained and qualified specialist property lawyers.

The CLC has further responded to employer demand by creating new qualifications that are standalone but may be used as a stepping stone to full licence. These qualifications will provide employers and consumers with an understanding of the level of legal training of individuals delivering legal services under the supervision of a fully qualified lawyer. They have been created in direct response to demand from firms and potential and past students. Candidates with or without prior legal education will be able to train to be recognised as a Conveyancing or Probate Technician.

As well as classroom and distance-learning, CLC qualifications will also be delivered as apprenticeships.  Those apprenticeships have been developed by employer-led consortiums supported by the CLC.

Chief Executive of the CLC, Sheila Kumar, said: ‘Formalising these new arrangements will cement a major step forward by the CLC by supporting qualifications that lead to licence as a Licensed Conveyancers or Probate Practitioner or recognition as a Conveyancing or Probate Technician. They respond to employer demand for more trained and qualified specialist property lawyers. Delivery of education under SQA will ensure a contemporary and engaging student experience and ensure that the numbers entering the profession will continue to increase.  Apprenticeships offer an especially accessible route to a career in the law and we expect that they will be popular with both potential lawyers and their employers. We hope also that many already working in the sector will take up these new opportunities.'

Find out more

New CLC Professional Indemnity Insurance Framework approved by the Legal Services Board

15 June 2016

CLC-regulated firms can now purchase PII cover from insurers that have signed up to the CLC’s Participating Insurers Agreement.  That agreement sets out the minimum terms and conditions of PII cover.  These have been enhanced to include run-off cover of £2m at no cost at the point of closure of a practice.

These changes take effect from the beginning of the next PII year, 1st July 2016.  Insurers have already been issuing quotations on this new basis in anticipation of the LSB’s approval, which was granted on 14th June.  

The new approach

  • Ends the master policy scheme with its opt-out provision and move to a more open-market approach
  • Improves consumer protection by ensuring that closed practices will automatically have run off cover in future
  • Removes the financial obstacle to orderly closure of firms presented by large run off premiums payable at the point of closure
  • Provides firms with improved choice of insurance through a Participating Insurers Agreement
  • Reduces the compliance burden on firms by removing the requirement to seek an opt-out from a Master Policy Scheme at PII renewal time
  • Streamlines internal regulatory processes at the CLC, making better use of resources

Currently, two brokers have signed up to the Participating Insurers Agreement.  

Chief Executive of the CLC, Sheila Kumar said: ‘We are delighted that the Legal Services Board has acted so quickly to approve our proposals. This means that firms and their clients will benefit from the new PII policy terms from the point of insurance renewal this month. Any firms that have not yet submitted proposal forms should do so without delay.’ 

Profession says CLC provides value for money, supports innovation

06 June 2016

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers is publishing today, Monday 6th June, the findings of its Stakeholder Perceptions Report 2016.  The report tracks changes in views about the specialist property law regulator since the last survey in 2014. The survey was carried out by independent research firm IFF.

CLC lawyers reported that the CLC’s performance has improved significantly on all measures over the past two years. Key findings include:

  • three-quarters of CLC lawyers think that regulation by the CLC provides value for money and supports innovation and growth in their business
  • two-thirds of all CLC lawyers and three-quarters of those regulated for three years or less agree that the CLC supports innovation and growth in the legal business it regulates
  • three-quarters believe that being regulated by the CLC is either ‘extremely’ or ‘mostly’ beneficial to their business
  • nine out of ten managers said that CLC staff are helpful and nine out of ten lawyers said that they are satisfied with the information and support that is provided by the CLC

In terms of performance in administration and regulation overwhelming majorities consider that the CLC performs ‘well’ in:

  • issuing licences - 82% (up from 67% in 2014)
  • regulation of Licensed Conveyancers - 78% (up from 69%)
  • setting standards for professional practice - 75% overall and 84% of managers (up from 63% overall)
  • setting standards for education and training - 74% (up from 63%)
  • providing practical guidance to the regulated community - 65% (up from 41%)

Stakeholders in other parts of the legal sector, the media and government described the CLC as ‘trusted, approachable, forward looking, helpful, open, proactive and professional’. Most stakeholders feel the CLC compares favourably to other organisations in the legal community, with several citing a closer relationship and more personal touch.

Both the regulated community and stakeholders now look to the CLC to continue to do more to raise its profile in the sector and ensure that its positions on developments in the sector and in regulation are more widely understood.

This very positive report on the CLC’s performance comes immediately after a solid endorsement from oversight regulator the Legal Services Board in its report on the CLC’s regulatory standards.

Chief Executive of the CLC Sheila Kumar said: ‘The results of this survey are a testament to the entire team at the CLC, both members of Council and the staff. The staff group is largely new since the beginning of 2015 and over the past three years we have also made major investments in infrastructure and IT.

‘It is very gratifying that the lawyers we regulate appreciate the efforts that we are making to continue to improve the service that we provide. It is especially important to us that those we regulate agree that the CLC regime supports innovation and growth alongside protecting the consumer. I am very pleased that we are now consulting on 20% reductions to regulatory fees for CLC firms, which I hope will support further growth.

‘We are also pleased to have received such positive comments from the lending community as we are working hard with them to ensure that there is continued good understanding of the profession that we regulate.’

View the recording of our lunchtime webinar that took place on Tuesday, 21st June to find out more: Register Now

The full report, prepared by independent researchers IFF, is available here.

Our comment on the LSB’s recent report on the CLC’s regulatory standards is available here

CLC welcomes LSB report on the cost of regulation

24 May 2016

CLC Reaction to LSB’s Report on the Cost of Regulation

Reacting to the publication today of the Cost of Regulation report by the Legal Services Board, Sheila Kumar, Chief Executive of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers said: ‘I am very pleased that the LSB’s work on costs of regulation has found that the profession’s views of both the fees and compliance costs of the CLC regime are viewed very favourably to other, comparable regulators. This chimes with the findings of an independent survey to be published in full soon, in which 77% of CLC-regulated lawyers say the CLC provides value for money and three-quarters said it ‘supports innovation and growth’.

‘The CLC is far from complacent, and in March this year we were able to announce a 20% cut in regulatory fee rates for firms. This new business model is based on improved staffing arrangements, the benefits of new IT infrastructure, smaller premises and changes to our processes for delivering our regulatory objectives. 

‘The CLC is focused on the value for money of our work as a specialist regulator of property lawyers, protecting consumers and supporting innovation and growth in the legal services market. This includes using our review of the CLC Handbook to streamline regulation further, based on feedback from the profession and other stakeholders.’

 

Charts 1, 2, 3, and 4 on pages 20-22 of the LSB publication ‘Cost of Regulation – Discussion of evidence from initial phase and next steps’ show the following.

Regulatory Fees

 

% saying fees are ‘low’, ‘reasonable’ or ‘high but not excessive

% saying fees are ‘poor value for money’

Entities

CLC

81

19

SRA

52

45

Individuals

CLSB

86

7

MoF

54

32

BSB

42

46

IPS

59

27

IPReg

46

42

 

Compliance costs

 

% saying compliance costs are ‘low’, ‘reasonable’ or ‘high but not excessive

% saying compliance costs are ‘poor value for money’

Entities

CLC

75

19

SRA

48

47

Individuals

CLSB

80

                    7

MoF

70

27

BSB

48

45

IPS

59

22

IPReg

59

34

 

The CLC will publish in June the findings of its 2016 survey of stakeholder and regulated community perceptions of the CLC.  The survey was carried out by independent research company IFF.

CLC Consults on lower regulatory fee rates

12 May 2016

In March 2016 the CLC announced that it would look to reduce by 20% the regulatory fee rates for the firms it regulates.  Today, the CLC has published a consultation paper on its proposals for setting fee rates for the regulatory year beginning 1st November 2016, including the reduction for firms.  Individual regulatory fees will remain unchanged.  

The fee rate cut has been made possible by restructuring of the CLC’s operations, staffing, process, IT support and a move to new, more appropriate premises.

Sheila Kumar, Chief Executive of the CLC said: ‘I am very pleased that we are able to consult now on this very significant change to our regulatory fee rates that meets the Council’s ambition for a 20% cut. This follows four years of frozen rates and reflects our commitment to deliver the same high standards of regulation and consumer protection at a much reduced cost to the regulated community in a way that is sustainable for the long term.

‘The Legal Services Board has this week endorsed the CLC’s new structures and approach, noting in its Regulatory Standards report that the CLC takes a “consistent and risk-based” approach, is able to take “targeted action depending on the risk posed” and “allows practitioners to be innovative in the way they deliver their products”. The LSB also commented that “the CLC has a culture of improvement and is not static in its approach to regulation”.’

Find out more

LSB endorses CLC's approach to regulation

10 May 2016

The Legal Services Board has published individual reports on the regulatory standards of the front line regulators as well as a thematic report drawing on all of the individual reports. They can be read here. 

The CLC is pleased that LSB recognises the ‘real improvement against all of the standards since 2012/13’. The LSB agrees with the CLC’s own assessment that its performance is satisfactory against the standards, which are: 

  • Outcomes-focused regulation
  • Risk assessment
  • Supervision
  • Enforcement
  • Capability and capacity

Notable comments by the LSB are that the CLC takes a ‘consistent and risk-based’ approach, is able to take ‘targeted action depending on the risk posed’ and ‘allows practitioners to be innovative in the way they deliver their products’. Looking at the CLC’s capability and capacity, the LSB comments that ‘the CLC has a culture of improvement and is not static in its approach to regulation.’

 

The CLC notes that the LSB wishes to see more information about the details of the work of the CLC published on its website and will work with the LSB to develop a plan to achieve that. 

 

Dame Janet Paraskeva, Chair of the CLC said: ‘The LSB’s assessment of the CLC’s regulatory standards is an endorsement of the major improvements that have been made to the CLC’s staffing, infrastructure, policies and processes since the 2012/13 report. We are committed to keeping our work under continuous review to make sure that it reflects the realities of the market that we regulate, the changing needs of consumers and the firms we regulate and evolving risks. I am pleased that in its thematic report, the LSB is able to cite so many positive examples of our work. As we continue work through our review of our handbook and other regulatory arrangements, we will see if further improvements can be made for the benefit of clients, innovative firms and the wider public interest in a well functioning property market.’ 

Consultation on new arrangements for Professional Indemnity Insurance

05 May 2016

Consultation on new arrangements for Professional Indemnity Insurance

  • Proposal to move from a Master Policy Scheme to a Participating Insurers Agreement
  • Insurers to provide six year run-off cover at no cost to firms at time of closure
  • Help for firms transferring from regulation by the SRA to the CLC

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers has today published a consultation on new arrangements for Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) for its regulated community. The consultation runs for two weeks, from Thursday, 5 May to Friday, 20 May

The proposals include a move away from the current master policy arrangement. It has been possible for a number of years for CLC-regulated entities to elect to be insured outside the master policy scheme, now the CLC is proposing a move to a completely open market with providers signing up to minimum terms and conditions set out in a Participating Insurers Agreement (PIA). This would simplify the insurance process for entities regulated by the CLC as they would only need to select a participating insurer rather than go through a process to opt-out of the master policy.

Another key change, reflected in the proposed new minimum terms and conditions, is the inclusion of run-off cover in the policy. Under this new arrangement, insurers will be obliged to provide six years of run-off cover for a firm which closes.  This run-off cover will be provided to firms at no additional cost at the time of closure. This removes a significant challenge of planning for firms and addresses a risk to consumers. The limit on claims in the six-year run-off period will be £2m in aggregate.  Past patterns of claims made since 2011 make it clear that this limit would be more than sufficient.  Brokers to the CLC Master Policy have confirmed that since 2011, the aggregate claims paid have not exceeded £100,000 per practice.

Finally, it will be easier for firms specialised in property law to transfer into regulation by the CLC. At the moment, SRA practices are required to purchase six years run-off cover at the point of leaving the SRA regime.  This often proves to be a major disincentive to exercising free choice of regulator. This may no longer be necessary if the SRA decides to waive the requirement for transferring firms, a possibility on which it is currently consulting. If the SRA retains its requirement, the CLC’s new scheme will increase flexibility for firms. 

Chief Executive of the CLC Sheila Kumar said: ‘The CLC’s proposed new arrangements for Professional Indemnity Insurance will bring improvements for consumers and lawyers in three main ways. PII arrangements will be more streamlined and so easier to manage for CLC practices, insurers and the CLC itself. They will improve protection for consumers and reduce the exposure of the Compensation Fund as run-off cover will be in place  for all closed practices. Finally, they will help to make a reality of the, currently largely theoretical, freedom for firms to choose the most appropriate regulator. The consultation period for these changes is short because we have already consulted the current insurers of Licensed Conveyancers and because we want consumers and firms to benefit from the new system with effect from this spring’s PII renewal round.’

Find out more and respond to the consultation 

CLC targets 20% fee rate cut for firms

23 March 2016

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) has today published its Financial Statements for the year 2015 and announced that it plans to reduce regulatory fee rates for all firms by 20%, effective from November 2016.