Menu

Latest news

CLC urges firms to promote the features and quality of their services to consumers

29 September 2017

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) is urging firms to improve the way they promote the features and quality of their services to help consumers move away from a focus on price alone. This follows recommendations from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The CLC hopes firms will respond positively to the recommendations from the CMA and that they will take voluntary steps to engage consumers in new ways so that the CLC does not need to introduce new rules.

A CLC consultation launched today – Helping Consumers Choose their Lawyer - Service, Quality and Price Transparency – looks to implement the recommendations made by the CMA last December. These aim to empower consumers with the information they need to choose the right lawyer for them.

The CLC is also proposing that firms publish client feedback either on their own websites, or via Digital Comparison Tools (DCT) and making it mandatory that firms should have to use an estimate generator on their websites or alternatively publish a full price list.

The CLC has revealed too that it is already working with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and CILEx Regulation to agree a standard format for the delivery of price estimates for conveyancing and probate work. It is vital that new arrangements apply evenly across all providers of legal services to ensure a level playing field for lawyers and consistent experience for consumers.

CLC Chief Executive Sheila Kumar chairs the Legal Services Remedies Programme Implementation Group, through which the front-line regulators are coordinating their responses to the CMA.

She says: “It is vital to empower consumers and in turn continue to foster competition and innovation in the legal services we regulate. We are also very conscious that this work should not be all about price and we will do what we can to help firms signal the quality of their service to clients.

“The discussions that informed this consultation lead us to believe that private sector solutions for improving the availability and comparability of information on price and service will emerge. So we hope that regulatory action can be limited to setting expectations, monitoring delivery, and promoting and supporting compliance.

“I am looking forward to hearing from people across the legal sector – not just the lawyers and non-lawyers within conveyancing and probate firms, but also organisations providing their IT and marketing and other support - as well as consumers and their representatives.”

The scope of this consultation covers only those legal services regulated by the CLC: conveyancing and probate services.

Read the consultation 

Legal regulators agree draft anti-money laundering guidance

19 September 2017

The AML Legal Supervisors have agreed draft Legal Sector Anti-Money Laundering Guidance taking account of the changes introduced by Money Laundering Regulations 2017 which came into force on 26 June 2017.  It is marked draft because it is subject to approval by HM Treasury which is expected later this year, and so may be subject to change. Once it has been approved by HM Treasury, the Guidance will be published in its final form.

The AML Legal Supervisors comprise the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), along with other legal sector regulators and representative bodies.

Simon Blandy, Director of Regulatory Standards at the CLC, says: “This is very important guidance for all legal professionals, but is particularly relevant to licensed conveyancers. Our regulated community have a significant role to play in ensuring that their services are not used to further criminal activity and we are confident that, once approved, the guidance will assist licensed conveyancers to meet their obligations.”

Read the CLC Practice Note on the Anti-Money Laundering regulations

Read the draft Legal Sector Anti-Money Laundering Guidance

Views of the 2017 PII renewal round

15 August 2017

According to this year’s survey of the profession following the PII renewal round, more firms secured quotations from two or more insurers than last year (62%, up from 51% in 2016).

Satisfaction levels with the process remained at broadly the same high levels and there were suggestions for further improvement of the process.

We will use the findings of the survey to improve our work with the profession and insurers to protect the consumer.

Read the full survey findings from the 2017 renewal round 

Leasehold of new properties

28 July 2017

The CLC very much welcomes the government’s consultation on tackling unfair practices in the leasehold market. (Read more)

The use of leasehold for new build properties that do not require a leasehold ownership arrangement seems to be another manifestation of what has been described as the ‘broken housing market’. It is not yet clear why housebuilders began to use leasehold arrangements in the last decade, but it is clear that it was a novel approach that was neither explained nor widely understood as it began to be used.

All players in the housing market have a part to play in making it work for everyone. This begins with the housebuilders or estate agents, who should be clear with their customers about the details of the house they are considering buying and later the surveyors who are confirming the valuation of the property.

Our expectations of the specialist conveyancers that we regulate are set out in our Code of Conduct.  We require the conveyancer to act in the best interests of clients – this includes the lender when the conveyancer is also acting for them – providing good quality, independent information, representation and advice.

If a current or former client of a CLC-regulated firm has concerns about advice they have received they should raise it with their conveyancer in the first instance. 

HSBC Panel Management changes

27 July 2017

HSBC has announced that its panel management services will in future be provided by LMS. 

All CLC regulated firms will continue to be able to act for HSBC as now. 

HSBC has issued a statement with useful information about the transition to the new arrangements. 

Read HSBC's statement and FAQs

SRA removes barrier to transfer between regulators

13 July 2017

The CLC is pleased that the SRA has decided to remove a barrier that has prevented lawyers from exercising their right to choose the most appropriate regulator for their business. The CLC’s regulation of specialist conveyancing and probate lawyers delivers high standards of consumer protection and supports innovation in the delivery of legal services.

The freedom to choose regulator was created by the Legal Services Act 2007 but was not a practical option for SRA-regulated firms because of the SRA’s requirement that a firm transferring to another regulator should take out run-off professional indemnity insurance cover as if it was closing. This made transfer between regulators prohibitively expensive. Now that requirement will be lifted, subject to approval by the Legal Services Board, by  1st October 2017.

We are already working with a number of firms who have been waiting for this announcement from the SRA. Any other firm considering moving into the CLC’s regime for specialist conveyancing and probate lawyers should contact us as soon as they begin to think about the possibility.

We always advise firms to discuss their plans with us at an early stage so that we can give them guidance about the best way to take their application forward and whether CLC regulation is right for their firm. This is just as important for established firms looking to move between regulators as for start-ups just entering the market.

Read the SRA’s statement

Disciplinary sanctions: consultation

10 July 2017

The CLC, the regulator of specialist conveyancing and probate lawyers has today published proposed guidelines for sanctions to be used by its Adjudication Panel when making decisions in disciplinary cases.

The new guidance will help the Adjudication Panel, ensuring consistency and a common view of the appropriate level of sanction in different cases. It will also give stakeholders confidence in the robustness of regulation by the CLC.

Very importantly, the Sanctions Guidance will be a clear indicator of the CLC’s view of the gravity of different types of breaches of its Code of Conduct.

 

Chief Executive of the CLC, Sheila Kumar said: ‘Establishing a Sanctions Guideline policy is an important step for the CLC and its Adjudication Panel.  Our proactive approach to helping firms deal with issues before they threaten the client or public interest means that comparatively few cases escalate to a degree of seriousness that means they reach the Panel for imposition of sanctions. Our proposed approach enhances transparency to support consumer confidence and to inform our regulated community and stakeholders better about the rigour of our regulatory approach.

‘I hope that many CLC lawyers and many of our partners in regulation and across the conveyancing and probate sector will take the opportunity to comment on our proposals.’ 

Find out more and have your say

CLC publishes Action Plan for better-informed consumers in response to CMA recommendations

29 June 2017

  • Council for Licensed Conveyancers to consult in autumn 2017 on detailed proposals for increasing transparency of price and service quality information for consumers
  • Expectation that a market solution will mean that limited regulatory action is needed to implement the CMA’s recommendations
  • The regulator and representative bodies for specialist conveyancing and probate lawyers see opportunities for firms to engage potential clients in new ways

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers has today published its Action Plan to implement the recommendations from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). These are aimed at ensuring that consumers are able to make well-informed choices of legal service provider.

The key recommendation from the CMA asks the legal services regulators to ‘deliver a step change in standards of transparency to help consumers (i) understand the price and service they will receive, what redress is available and the regulatory status of their provider and (ii) compare providers’.

The CLC has been talking to the specialist conveyancing and probate lawyers it regulates about this agenda since 2016. It has also been discussing with the Society of Licensed Conveyancers innovative ways to meet the CMA’s expectations that serve consumers and help legal businesses. How the market responds will be a consideration in how far CLC needs to be prescriptive by way of regulation. We are heartened by the considerable progress there has been since our early consultation activity in January.
 

Chief Executive of the CLC, Sheila Kumar, said: ‘The recommendations from the CMA are clear and actionable. We have been listening carefully to conveyancing and probate specialists around England and Wales at conferences and in discussion groups for over six months about how we should implement those recommendations. Our discussions have helped us to develop an approach to improving information for consumers that we believe holds opportunities for firms regulated by the CLC as well as delivering improvements in consumer choice. We look forward to continuing those conversations when we consult on detailed proposals in the autumn.’

Chair of the Society of Licensed Conveyancers, Simon Law said: ‘The Society of Licensed Conveyancers is delighted that the CLC has been engaging with us and with our members so constructively so that we can work together to identify a pragmatic approach to the CMA’s recommendations. The Society is working with potential providers of a system that will deliver transparent and comparable information to help clients choose their legal service provider and give conveyancing specialists a new tool to win clients.’

Rob Hailstone of Bold Legal Group said: ‘It will be vital that conveyancers review and comment on the CLC’s proposals in the autumn. We must take this opportunity to continue to shape the practice of conveyancing and put businesses onto a firmer footing by harnessing the new transparency requirements in order to secure business. If the profession fails to make the new regime work, it may be that a different one will be imposed on us in the future, with who knows what impact.’

Find out more

 

Streamlining and strengthening the practice approval process

15 May 2017

We’ve been licensing Alternative Business Structures (ABS) since October 2011. In that time, we’ve gained a great deal of experience in the different regimes for ABS firms and Recognised Bodies (RB) - often called traditional firms.

It has become clear that, contrary to fears expressed by some at the time the Legal Services Act introduced ABS, the new type of firm poses no greater risks to the public and consumer interest than the traditional model. Experience shows, though, that there are aspects of the ABS regime that it would be sensible to extend to Recognised Bodies.

The CLC is now consulting on proposals to streamline and strengthen the policies and processes for licensing entities to carry out conveyancing or probate work. We are seeking views on our intention to:

  • Require all firms (not just ABS) to appoint a Head of Legal Practice and Head of Finance and Administration. 
  • Issue entity licences for RBs for an indefinite period (as is already the case for ABS firms)
  • End differential application fees for new RB and ABS entities
  • Make improvements to the authorisation process, simplifying the information to be submitted and revising the ‘fit and proper’ test for managers, owners, HoLP, HoFA and CLC Lawyers to ensure it is proportionate and targeted

The first proposal will bring greater clarity to accountability for compliance in Recognised Bodies without significantly increasing the regulatory burden. Our other proposals will reduce the regulatory burden and lower barriers to entry to the market with no reduction in our high levels of consumer protection.

Our consultation closes on Friday, 30th June.

Read the consultation paper ‘Review of the CLC’s Authorisation Requirements for Entities’ 

Value for money regulation

12 May 2017

Three-quarters of CLC lawyers think that regulation by the CLC provides value for money and supports innovation and growth in their business. Now the CLC has launched a consultation on the objectives and principles that should govern the setting of licence and practice fees. This follows a 20% reduction in entity fee rates in 2016.

A key proposal is to maintain consistency in regulatory fees year on year, so that firms are able to plan with confidence that rates will not see-saw.  But we are committed to making reductions in rates whenever that is possible in a way that we can be certain is sustainable.  

The CLC’s fee rates are calculated on the turnover of firms. As the turnover of CLC firms continues to rise, the CLC believes it will be able to reduce fees. Our tight control of the cost of delivering tailored regulation of specialist property lawyers will also help.   

There could be exceptional circumstances, such as a prolonged economic downturn, when a different approach is required. If the CLC’s minimum reserves were not able to absorb the impact of such an event, then rates might need to increase.

The CLC is committed to delivering proportionate, targeted regulation and that includes keeping the financial burden of regulation to a sustainable minimum. 

The consultation closes on Friday, 23rd June.