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Probate News 8 - March 2019

Welcome to probate news issue 8, where we confirm the result of ICAEW’s application to register firms for a further five reserved legal services.

ICAEW’s reserved legal services application: High Court decision announced

As you may be aware, ICAEW applied to the Legal Services Board (LSB) in 2016 to be able to register firms for a further five reserved legal services. This would have enabled you to build your practice in this area. The LSB recommended our application to the Lord Chancellor (June 2017) who however rejected the application in September 2017.

We considered the decision was ill-founded and sought a judicial review of the decision. This was heard in the courts in November 2018 and the judgement has now been published.

The judgement quashed the decision regarding the administration of oaths which the Lord Chancellor now has to re-consider. However the application for the four other reserved services continues to be refused.

ICAEW Executive Director of Professional Standards, Duncan Wiggetts, said:

'We are pleased that the High Court’s judgment quashes the former Lord Chancellor’s decision to reject LSB's recommendation that ICAEW be approved to regulate the administration of oaths. The current Lord Chancellor will now need to re-take that decision. We very much hope that he seizes the opportunity to extend choice in the market, in keeping with the spirit and intention of the Legal Services Act 2007. The 2014 decision to allow ICAEW to regulate probate has already seen hundreds of ICAEW firms enter this market, widening access to justice for a greater number of consumers through these multi-disciplinary practices. We are disappointed and surprised the Court decided not to quash the rest of the Lord Chancellor’s decision on the remaining four reserved legal services. The LSB, an independent body created by the Legal Services Act, made a very clear recommendation to the former Lord Chancellor, after a rigorous assessment, that ICAEW should be approved to regulate all five reserved legal services.

'Today’s judgment undermines the important role of the LSB in determining applications by confirming that, irrespective of its recommendation, the Lord Chancellor can impose his own unspecified and undisclosed test to determine a regulator’s suitability. This makes a lottery of all future applications.

'The Legal Services Act was meant to open up the market for the provision of legal services to increase competition, leading to improvements in quality and helping drive down costs. It encouraged non-traditional legal services regulators to become part of the regulatory framework so that other professional services firms might enter the legal services market. Our application was welcomed by the Competition and Markets Authority. The former Lord Chancellor’s decision, upheld in part by today’s judgment, has set that back. The Government now needs to consider whether changes are needed to the Act to ensure that it delivers the more competitive market it promised.

'We will now evaluate the options including helping our probate firms to evolve their practices in other areas not reserved under the act. Will-writing courses are now being rolled out as part of that strategy. The final version of LSB's internal governance rules (when issued) may help us determine our future approach on the reserved areas. We will keep you advised of further developments.'

Best Practice Guide: Consultation closing date 20 March 2019

ICAEW’s Best Practice Guide to Price and Service transparency will be published in Summer 2019. We are currently consulting on a draft version of the guide with the aim of incorporating your feedback before finalising this cornerstone of our consumer engagement strategy.

The move to transparency and service and price disclosure are essential parts of the development of a marketing strategy, making a firm more accessible to the consumer. The regulatory requirements of the Legal Services Board and the CMA put to one side, this initiative is highly relevant for firms as a means of promoting their legal services in the marketplace.

ICAEW is now consulting on the Best Practice Guide and welcomes your feedback before the final version of the guide is published in Summer 2019.

The consultation will close at 5pm on the 20 March 2019.

Find out more about ICAEW’s consumer engagement strategy and its Action Plan to deliver greater transparency in the legal services market.

2019 probate diversity survey – deadlines approaching

It’s nearly time to survey your staff. Please ensure your staff complete the survey as close to the 31 March as possible.

You’ll need to make sure that everyone in your firm completes the survey, not just those working in the probate team. The survey template as well as further guidance on the process, Q&As, how to collect data, what to publish and when, is available at icaew.com/probatediversity

Here’s a reminder of the key dates:

  • 31 March 2019 – Staff at your firm to complete the survey as close to this date as possible
  • 12 April 2019 – Deadline to publish your firm’s aggregated, anonymised results on your website
  • 30 April 2019 – Deadline to send the aggregated, anonymised results to ICAEW
  • Summer 2019 – ICAEW will publish their 2019 diversity data report

If you have a question about the survey, please contact our Technical Advisory Services team who will be happy to help you on +44 (0)1908 248 250 or by email, contactus@icaew.com

Diversity is directly tied to company culture and financial performance. Has your firm benefitted?

LinkedIn’s recent report, ‘Global Recruiting Trends 2018’, found that ‘diversity is directly tied to company culture and financial performance’. They found the top reasons companies focus on diversity are to improve culture (78%), to improve company performance (62%) and to better represent customers (49%).

We’d like to include some success stories as part of the 2019 probate diversity report. If you’d like to share your story, we’d be really pleased to hear from you. Please email stephanie.patterson@icaew.com

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