Forward-looking Regulation for the benefit of all

The world around us is changing fast, and we as the regulator need to change too. This feature from CRL Chair Jonathan Rees sets out our plans.

It is 15 years since CILEx Regulation came into existence as the independent regulator of CILEX professionals. We are very proud of what we have achieved since then: securing rights for CILEX members to practise in reserved and regulated areas of legal activity without supervision; supporting CILEX professionals and others to set up their own law firms through individual tailored support; and, updating Codes and education requirements to meet new demands on professionals.

This has been done through robust and independent regulation, but always informed by a close partnership with CILEX professionals at each stage of our process.  However we acknowledge that the world around us is changing fast, and we as the regulator need to change too. I would like to set out our future plans.

Challenges facing regulators today

Leaving to one side the current uncertainty in the regulatory structure, and with a possible move to a single legal regulator in the far distant future, I would identify four key challenges facing regulators today.

Equality and Diversity: We need a regulatory system that reflects the needs of the country. CILEX professionals are among the most diverse parts of the legal sector today: over 75% are women, 50% did not attend university, and 80% say they would not have had a career in the law without CILEX. We want to maintain a clear route for people from non-privileged backgrounds to enter and prosper in the legal profession. We set out our plans in our first EDI Strategy published last year.

Changing Consumer Behaviour: consumers are changing too, being more cost conscious, more diverse, more likely to complain, and rightly wanting legal providers to tailor services to their needs. Regulators need to respond so that consumers obtain the right information about the services available to them, and its cost not least since many are at their most vulnerable when they need legal help. Alongside other regulators, CRL has supported the Legal Choices website providing comprehensive information to consumers, and also promoted transparency in the delivery of legal services.

Economic Turbulence: the coming period will continue to be beset by a tough economic climate for all legal providers, and it is essential for all regulators to show they are providing value for money. We have worked hard to maintain a stable Practising Certificate Fee for those we regulate, with a £73 reduction in real terms over the last seven years. We intend to continue to bear down on our costs.

Technology: already technology is changing the way law firms operate, consumers interact with them, and the roles available to CILEX professionals. It is crucial we understand these changes, and the CRL Board recently agreed to support research by the Legal Regulators Forum for further work this year.

Looking forward

On 15 May 2023 we published our consultation: “Specialist Regulation for an Independent Profession”, setting out some of our plans for the future. These include: structural changes in our relationship with CILEX, to reinforce our independence and increase value for money; plans to accredit more training providers; providing more choice to individuals becoming Chartered Legal Executives; a risk-based approach to new arrangements for ongoing competence and a refresh of our enforcement process.

I am particularly excited by our plans to make it easier to set up a law firm: CRL Law Firm in a Box. For too long individuals wanting to set up on their own have been faced with a wall of bureaucracy and paperwork, not to mention real problems in obtaining the necessary insurance cover.

Based on our experience of regulating some 58 small firms, and the research we have done, we want to make it easier for start-up law firms and sole practitioners with limited resources and budgets to satisfy compliance and regulatory requirements. If we give the green light to go ahead, the result should be more choice for consumers, more innovation, and more competition.

Building blocks for the future

In conclusion, I should like to identify some key building blocks for a successful forward-looking regulatory system for CILEX professionals:

  • Partnership: the people we regulate are unique and varied. It is critical that the regulatory system is rooted in their experience and expertise, recognises the distinctive and specialist contribution CILEX professionals make, and that the regulatory community is engaged and supportive.
  • Transparency: changes to regulation need to be made openly and based on evidence.
  • Value for Money: in difficult times, it is essential that regulators maintain quality while providing value for money.
  • Competition: we should be striving for greater competition and consumer choice, not seeking to straitjacket people into a “one-size fits all” box.

We have been encouraged by the responses and comments to date to our consultation. We want to hear views from as many more of you as possible before 26 June 2023. We will publish a summary of responses in mid July.

Jonathan Rees (Chair, CILEx Regulation Ltd)


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