Conveyancing Scheme blocks entry to non-solicitor law firms
16 October 2020
The Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS), a recognised quality standard for residential conveyancing practices, has been described as a “market barrier” by The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).
CILEx have told the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that it blocks entry to non-solicitor law firms and said it was “at least questionable” whether the CQS, only available to firms regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, was “a true reflection of quality or choice available in the sector”.
The CMA issued a market study on the legal sector back in 2016 and last month they announced a three-month review of the progress made in improving competition in the legal services sector. CILEx submitted their feedback to the CMA, noting that there original recommendation that quality indicators and feedback platforms should be independent of any single legal regulator or professional body.
CILEX statement said:
“CILEx believes that this impartiality is vital, as if this is lacking then quality indicators can actually be detrimental to competition.
“Some of the current ‘quality hallmarks’ in the legal sector are administered by a single legal professional body for the benefit of their membership.
“These have then been adopted by other stakeholders as minimum thresholds, meaning these hallmarks have, inadvertently, become market barriers to those other legal professionals not covered by the hallmark.
“The net result is that it is at least questionable whether such a standard is a true reflection of quality or choice available in the sector.”
“The CQS is recognised by the vast majority of lenders as a mark of quality and membership of the CQS is a requisite for acting on behalf of lenders in conveyancing matters.
“This means that non-solicitor legal firms are denied the opportunity to undertake the vast majority of conveyancing work even though they are as qualified and competent to undertake the work as any CQS holder.”
In their reponse, CILEx also asked for “greater flexibility” in the regulation of legal services to accommodate the growth in digital solutions.
CILEx said the regulatory framework would have to “shift” to enable these digital solutions “which are created, coded and maintained by non-legal middlemen, and may even eliminate the role of legal practitioners within certain legal processes” to be “effectively regulated, or at the very least moderated, to ensure minimum standards”.
There was a call for two historic restrictions to be lifted, so that CILEx lawyers could certify copies of powers of attorney (they can certify originals) and have wider advocacy rights in the criminal courts.
Professor Chris Bones, chair of CILEx, described the CMA review as:
“important if the legal services sector is to become more competitive and offer better value to consumers.
“There are still areas that are outdated and where illogical anomalies need to be addressed.”
The Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) first launched in January 2011 to offer regulators, lenders, insurers and home movers a recognisable standard of excellence in the provision of residential conveyancing services.
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