Legal executives are the equal of any other type of lawyer and should be afforded the same rights
Nick Hanning, the new president of CILEx, has called for independent rights for legal executives in his inaugural speech in Bournemouth.
Hanning said independent rights were essential if chartered legal executives were going to compete “on an equal footing” with solicitors, barristers, licensed conveyancers and other lawyers.
“A chartered legal executive sitting as a judge may have to give judgment in a complex case argued by senior barristers, yet even as a qualified advocate she cannot appear as an advocate in that same court unless she is employed by or in partnership with a solicitor,” Hanning said.
“Another chartered legal executive may be handling high-volume or highly complex property transactions, but he is not allowed to charge a fee for drafting the documentation unless employed by or in partnership with a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer.
“In fact, that chartered legal executive who may have drafted all the documentation is not even allowed to sign the Land Registration forms.”
Hanning said legal executives could be Commissioners for Oaths but were unable to certify Land Registry forms or witness lasting powers of attorney.
He said that besides those “absurdities”, CILEx was unique in its training and regulation of lawyers.
“We are the only approved regulator which trains, assesses competence and imposes professional obligations on those working at every level within the profession,” he said.
“Starting with legal secretarial courses, we provide training and membership for paralegals, apprentices, lawyers, advocates and judges. No other legal profession does that.
“I make no great pretensions that chartered legal executives are in any way superior to other types of lawyer but I do say simply that properly trained, properly regulated chartered legal executives are the equal of any other type of lawyer and should be afforded the same rights.”
Hanning added that it was a “sad truth” that the government had “systematically destroyed what was the best legal aid system in the world” and ensured that “vast swathes of the most vulnerable people in our society will face huge difficulty in getting access to justice”.
Although pro bono could not possibly fill the gap left by the cuts, and although the government “may have abdicated its responsibilities”, this was no excuse for lawyers to do likewise.