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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.’   

Reform of the regulatory framework for legal services

12 September 2016

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers reacted to the publication today by the Legal Services Board of A vision for legislative reform of the regulatory framework for legal services in England and Wales.

 Chair of the CLC, the Rt Hon Dame Janet Paraskeva said:

 ‘The CLC is very encouraged that the Legal Services Board (LSB) has recognised the strengths of activity-based regulation. We have long argued that this model should be retained and extended under any new arrangements for the regulation of legal services. A risk-based approach in place of the current, haphazard system of ‘reservation’ of certain legal services also has our support as we believe it will deliver benefits to consumers and legal service providers alike. Likewise, a sharper focus on regulation in the regulatory objectives will provide clearer goals and so reduce the overall regulatory burden.

‘It is our view that the Legal Services Board already has powers to deliver independence of regulation from representation and I urge the Board to use those powers now in line with its views as set out in its paper. Securing the independence of regulation is a vital first step in the further reform of legal services and in fact should be seen as unfinished business from implementation of the Legal Services Act.

‘The LSB has published a very useful paper providing leadership on reform of regulation of legal services. As a wholly independent regulator with a thirty-year record of protecting consumers, supporting innovation and fostering competition through tailored, specialist activity-based regulation, we look forward to taking part in the debate and providing the CLC’s unique insight into the Board’s preferred future model.

‘Commentary on the LSB’s proposal is likely to focus on the question of whether there should be one regulator or many but this should not distract us from the more important questions raised in this paper. We agree with the Legal Services Board that whether there should only be one regulator can only flow from answers to the prior questions about how we ensure independence and move to a risk-based approach and regulation by activity.’

In summary, the LSB's paper makes the following proposals. 

Vision-image-(1).jpg

Help to Buy ISA

24 August 2016

There has been some confusion about the operation of the Help to Buy ISA scheme. The Treasury's guidance for conveyancers sets out that the draw-down of the Help to Buy ISA bonus should take place immediately prior to completion. The savings themselves can be withdrawn by the homebuyer earlier to use as part of the deposit on their new home. This process was set up to avoid any difficulties that would arise in the event of a house purchase that fell through at any earlier stage. It is important that all intermediaries, from the ISA providers themselves, mortgage brokers and lenders to conveyancers are clear with the home-buyer about when and for what purpose the ISA savings and bonus can be used.

Find out more 

CLC cuts regulatory fee rates, reports on a successful PII round

28 July 2016

The CLC, the specialist property law regulator, has today confirmed that it will reduce regulatory fees rates for firms by 20% with effect from 1st November 2016. The announcement follows a consultation on the proposed reduced rates and a formal decision by the governing Council. The proposals will now be passed to the Legal Services Board for approval.

The fee rate cut has been made possible by restructuring of the CLC’s operations, staffing, processes and IT support as well as a move to new, more appropriate premises. Together, these have reduced the CLC’s cost base in a sustainable way while maintaining and improving services consumers and the regulated community.

The CLC today also published a review of the operation of the professional indemnity insurance round. Firms had to renew their insurance by 1st July under new terms which built in automatic run-off cover to no cost at the point of a firm’s closure.  This was also the first PII renewal round through a fully open market, following the end of the CLC’s Master Policy scheme.

Feedback from the profession was overwhelmingly positive, with 84% of respondents finding the process easier or the same as the previous year and more than two-thirds saying they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the new arrangements.

Overall, premium rates remain very competitive despite the addition of automatic run-off cover to the minimum terms. All firms that sought cover secured it.

The CLC will discuss the survey findings with insurers to ensure that points raised about the operation of the process are taken account of in planning the 2017 renewal round.

Sheila Kumar, Chief Executive of the CLC said: ‘The success of the 2016 Professional Indemnity Insurance renewal round and the announcement of 20% reductions to regulatory fees for firms set the seal on a very successful twelve months for the CLC. In a recent independent survey, three-quarters of CLC lawyers said that regulation by the CLC provides value for money and supports innovation and growth in their business. The Legal Services Board gave us a very strong report too, giving us the best assessment of any regulator.

‘PII premium rates for CLC-regulated firms remain very competitive. The new automatic run-off provisions are a benefit to firms as well as reducing what had been a risk to consumers and the Compensation Fund in the event that a firm closed without purchasing run-off cover.

‘Reducing the costs of regulation is an important part of our mission to foster competition and innovation in conveyancing and probate. The ongoing review of our regulatory arrangements has a sharp focus on even tighter tailoring of our approach to the proportionate regulation of specialist property lawyers.’

Find out more

The CLC’s review of the 2016 PII renewal round is available here.

The CLC’s Stakeholder and Regulated Community Perceptions Report 2016 was carried out by independent research firm IFF. More information is available on our website.

The Legal Service Board’s report on the CLC’s Regulatory Standards gave the CLC a better overall rating than any of the other legal services regulators. More details are available here

New apprenticeships in law planned for Wales

26 July 2016

Aspiring lawyers in Wales will soon have a new way to begin their careers as apprenticeships in conveyancing and probate are due to go live in early 2017.

Three qualifications will be on offer.  The first two lead to recognition by the CLC as a Conveyancing Technician or a Probate Technician. It’s a great start to a legal career as well as an excellent way for people with a lot of experience in conveyancing firms, but who are not qualified lawyers or do not want to be, to polish their skills and demonstrate their value to current and potential employers.

The third qualification leads to eligibility to become a Licensed Conveyancer, a fully authorised lawyer regulated by the CLC, the specialist property law regulator, with the same status as a solicitor within their area of specialism. That can be a follow on from becoming a Conveyancing Technician, or apprentices can aim for the higher qualification from the beginning.

Licensed Conveyancers are specialist property lawyers who work in firms with other Licensed Conveyancers, Solicitors and other lawyers or in-house for large organisations and who can set up their own firms if they wish.  Over the past four years, firms regulated by the CLC have quadrupled their turnover, having begun to recover from the last downturn sooner and faster than the rest of the market.

Chief Executive of the CLC Sheila Kumar said: ‘There is strong demand for more qualified Licensed Conveyancers and CLC Probate Practitioners because of the overall strength of the sector we regulate.  These new apprenticeships in Wales are an excellent way to begin a career in law, earning while you learn. The CLC supports Licensed Conveyancers who are finding new ways to meet the expectations of buyers and sellers and provide innovative new services. We expect the Welsh Government will approve them so that the first apprenticeships can begin in March 2017.’ 

Exciting roles on our governing Council

21 July 2016

We are looking for new members for our governing Council to fill roles that will soon become vacant as members come to the end of their maximum terms. The majority of the new roles will begin in April 2017.

There are vacancies for two lay (non-lawyer) members and three lawyer members. The lawyer members will need experience in the conveyancing and probate fields. Recruiting to the non-lawyer roles, the CLC is especially interested in people with experience in marketing or consumer affairs. Full details are available on the here.

The CLC has achieved some notable successes in recent years, securing the power to issue stand-alone probate licences, receiving a very positive assessment from oversight regulator the Legal Services Board, and achieving very significant shifts in already positive perceptions of it by the profession and its stakeholders. Three-quarters of CLC lawyers believe that being regulated by the CLC is either ‘extremely’ or ‘mostly’ beneficial to their business, that it provides value for money and supports innovation and growth in their business.

 

The regulator has this year overhauled its professional indemnity insurance regime, achieving major improvements in the interests of regulated firms, consumers and reducing risk to the Compensation Fund that it operates on behalf of the profession. It is also completing the handover of the delivery of education to licence as a CLC lawyer to SQA while it retains control of the standards of entry to the profession.

Now the CLC is looking for new Council Members who can continue to drive the organisation forward.  A major review of regulatory arrangements is underway to ensure that the CLC is in a strong position to continue its original mission to foster competition and innovation in legal services provision.

Chair of the CLC, Dame Janet Paraskeva said: ‘The CLC has made significant progress in the past few years, delivering tailored regulation of specialist property lawyers in a more streamlined and cost-effective way. The turnover of firms we regulate has more than doubled in the past four years after they recovered sooner and quicker than other firms from the 2008 downturn. But there are always new challenges in a fast-changing sector that underpins a major part of the economy. Serving on our governing Council is a chance to drive positive change in an innovative organisation that will have far-reaching impact.’