The difference between SRA and CLC

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This article outlines the differences between conveyancing solicitors (SRA) and licensed conveyancers (CLC) and their regulating bodies giving you the information to decide who looks after the legal side of your move.

Conveyancing solicitors and licensed conveyancers are different sides of the same coin. The main difference between them is their regulatory bodies. All solicitors in England and Wales are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and registered with The Law Society, whereas licensed conveyancers are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC).

Most of us are not too concerned with the finer points of our legal professional’s regulation, being only too happy to just get on with the business of conveyancing. But perhaps we should take a little time to understand their roles, how they can legally operate, and the difference between their professions.

Different standards for SRA and CLC

Although they are separate, both licensed conveyancers and solicitors have a similar set of standards and guidelines which their members must abide by, but what are the main differences between SRA and CLC.

The Administration of Justice Act 1985

Before 1985, homebuyers and sellers had little option but to use a conveyancing solicitor. However, the burgeoning number of legal resources used by solicitors meant that the industry itself had to expand in order to deal with the demands of the growing number of people buying and selling property.

The 1985 Administration of Justice Act enabled licensed conveyancers to supply their services and are described by the CLC as:

“A qualified specialist lawyer who concentrates solely on dealing with property or conveyancing. As a result, licensed conveyancers operate under a bespoke regulatory framework, which is designed specifically to continually ensure consumer protection for users of services provided by licensed conveyancers.”

This legislation allowed licensed conveyancers to legally work both on buyers’ and sellers’ behalf. There are a growing number of qualified solicitors who have chosen to convert to licensed conveyancer status.

What are the differences between SRA and CLC?

Solicitors are generally trained in several legal fields, ranging from criminal law through to litigation and family law. After finishing their training, they can decide to specialise in a specific area of law or continue covering a number of areas, as many high street solicitors do. This can be an advantage when it comes to legal issues that can be connected to conveyancing, such as wills and probate, for example. Perhaps the downside to this may mean your solicitor is sometimes harder to get hold of.

On the other side of the coin, licensed conveyancers are specialists in property law with this area being the sole focus of their work. To become a licensed conveyancer, levels 4 and 6 diplomas in conveyancing law and practice must be completed, which can be done as quickly as 18 months. But before they can apply for their first qualifying licence, they will need to complete 1,200 hours of practical experience. The scope of employment training venues is very broad and even includes working in banks and building societies, as well as legal practices.

Even though licensed conveyancers may not have the same breadth of legal training as a solicitor, they will have undertaken a series of stringent examinations and many hours’ practical experience in order to get their qualification.

As of November 2017, licensed conveyancers must show a badge on their website proving they have a secure website and are regulated by the CLC.

 Standards for licensed conveyancers

The legal Services Act 2007 introduced regulatory objectives for licensed conveyancers who must champion the interests of consumers by:

  • Protecting and promoting public interest
  • Supporting the constitutional principle of the rule of law
  • Improving access to justice
  • Protecting and promoting the interests of consumers
  • Promoting competition in the provision of services
  • Encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession
  • Increasing public understanding of the citizen’s legal rights and duties
  • Promoting and maintain adherence to the professional standards

The objectives focus on the principle of the behaviour of legal service providers and dovetail with the interests of consumers and the public.

Council for licensed conveyancers regulations 

The Council of Licensed Conveyancers have been regulating licensed conveyancers in England and Wales for over 25 years. Recently, the CLC extended their field of expertise to include related legal services such as probate. The mission of the CLC is to protect the public interest, and they have set out a Code of Conduct, which requires licensed conveyancers to:

  • Act with integrity and independence
  • Maintain high standards of work
  • Act in the best interests of clients
  • Comply with a duty to the court (if applicable to the case)
  • Deal with regulators and ombudsmen in an open and co-operative way
  • Promote equality of access and service.

All the activities of the CLC are monitored by the Legal Services Board.

 Standards for conveyancing solicitors 

The SRA was established in 2007 with an aim to ensure professional performance and secure the quality of service and behaviour of solicitors. The Law Society operates separately and also regulates various actions and acts in favour of the public interest. However, both these organisations dovetail in their overall objective to provide confidence to the public in the legal profession.

The Law Society

The Law Society’s main remit is:

  • To maintain an accurate and up to date solicitor’s register
  • To make the public aware of the duties of solicitors
  • Provide guidance for constant development in solicitor’s careers

Solicitors Regulation Authority

As stated above, the main aim of the SRA is to protect the interests of clients seeking legal assistance. Some of the SRAs activities in this regard include:

  • Regularly monitoring organisations that provide formal legal training for solicitors
  • Setting the rules of conduct and regulations around ethical issues, which affect the professionalism of solicitors, are created by the SRA to ensure they protect client’s interest first and foremost.
  • Checking solicitors and solicitor firms, and make sure they are abiding by the rules and regulations
  • Update law enforcement agencies and other regulators to give maximum protection to the rights of the public
  • Take the necessary disciplinary action against solicitors in case of complaints
  • Provide a compensatory fund for refunding money lost by clients because of dishonesty of a solicitor or because of a mistake in the accounts a solicitor has maintained.

The SRA constantly updates and improves their services and regulations by taking public opinions into account, alongside government suggestions and those of other legal professionals. The SRA is monitored and regulated by the Legal Services Board.

SRA and CLC difference - The choice is yours

A conveyancing solicitor has the benefit of many years of training and experience of handling and studying all aspects of property law. Licensed conveyancers only ever train in property law but have gone through rigorous practical training and examinations. So the decision whether you use a licensed conveyancer or solicitor should be one that best suits your needs and circumstances.

In essence, it all comes down to who you decide will do the best job for your move. Because solicitors and licensed conveyancers both possess the necessary legal qualifications and expertise to look after your move. It may be better to focus on what makes a particular firm’s service stand out from the others.

Specialist conveyancing practices have a mix of solicitors and licensed conveyancers and can offer a number of features that help to ensure a smooth conveyancing process and move. Things such as online case tracking facilities and email or text updates can all help speed up the process and make it more efficient. Online Conveyancing Solicitors offer a mix of SRA conveyancing solicitors and CLC licenced conveyancers. You can also find out more about how the online conveyancing process works in our article here. Ultimately the choice between SRA and CLC is yours.

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