Newly qualified legal executives are more experienced and knowledgeable than their solicitor counterparts, the new president of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) claimed in his inaugural speech last week.
Nick Hanning said legal executives are ‘the equal of any other type of lawyer’ and should be allowed to compete on ‘an equal footing’ with solicitors, barristers and others.
Hanning is the 49th president of CILEx and a personal injury partner at Dorset firm RWPS Law. In 2009 he became the first legal executive to become a law firm partner under changes introduced by the Legal Services Act 2007.
The Law Society reacted coolly to his claims. Director of legal policy Mark Stobbs said comparing newly qualified legal executives and newly qualified solicitors is not comparing like with like. He added: ‘For a newly qualified solicitor, their qualification gives them the breadth and overall knowledge that acts as a springboard for a career in which their expertise will develop massively. The CILEx qualification often is achieved at a later stage in a career.’
Hanning said he would use his year in office to abolish the ‘absurdities’ of the present regulatory system that deny legal executives independent practice rights.
Legal executives can currently sit as judges, he said, but cannot appear in court as advocates unless they are employed by or in partnership with a solicitor or licensed conveyancer. Similarly, legal executives can be a Commissioner for Oaths, but are not allowed to certify Land Registry forms or to witness a lasting power of attorney.
These examples, he said, are ‘sound practical reasons why there should be no sensible objection to chartered legal executives having independent practice rights’.
CILEx said it is in the process of making applications to the Legal Services Board to extend the practising rights of its fellows to litigation, conveyancing and probate.
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