Skip to main content

UK Update: Accountants to challenge government decision on rights to handle legal work




The Legal Services Board (“the Board”) was established in the United Kingdom pursuant to Part 2 of the Legal Services Act 2007 (“the 2007 Act”), which can be accessed here. The Legal Services Board is responsible for the:
  • The regulation of Approved Regulators and the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. A list of Approved Regulators and licensing authorities, as well as the reserved legal activities which they regulate can be accessed here.
  • The oversight of the Office for Legal Complaints.
  • The making of recommendations to amend the list of reserved legal activities.
  • The setting up of voluntary arrangements to improve standards (if required).
The Board share the regulatory objectives with the Approved Regulators of the legal profession, each of which have direct responsibility for the day to day regulation of the different types of lawyers. The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (“the ICAEW”) is a professional membership organisation that provides their members with knowledge and guidance and ensures that ICAEW Chartered Accountants are meeting the highest ethical and technical standards. The ICAEW act in the public interest offering insights into business and the economy that help to shape government policy and regulation. The ICAEW has regulatory responsibilities in relation to probate activities and in 2016 the ICAEW published plans to become a regulator for all the reserved legal activities set out in the 2007 Act. The Board, following an eleven-month consideration period, recommended that the then Lord Chancellor, use his statutory power to make an Order desiginating the ICAEW as an Approved Regulator in relation to the following reserved legal activities:
  • the exercise of a right of audience.
  • the conduct of litigation.
  • reserved instrument activities.
  • notarial activies.
  • the administrative of oaths.
The Board further recommended that the Lord Chancellor make an Order designating the ICAEW as a Licensing Authority for the same reserved legal activities. In September last, the then Lord Chancellor rejected the Board’s recommendation and the ICAEW’s application to become a Regulator and Licensing Authority for the above listed reserved legal services. He gave the following reasons for the decision, which can be accessed here:
  1. The inadequate separation of representation from regulation at the ICAEW.
  2. The strong objections of the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas.
  3. The difficulties of restricting regulation to tax work.
  4. The negative impact ICAEW regulated firms could have on the international standing of English and Welsh notarial acts; and
  5. That just because accountants were experts in tax did not mean they could be tax litigators or advocates.
The ICAEW has now launched proceedings, applying to the Administrative High Court of Justice of England and Wales for leave to bring a judicial review against the Ministry of Justice over the decision to deny the ICAEW as a designated Approved Regulator and a Licensing Authority the right to conduct litigation, advocacy and legal instruments work. This matter is currently live before the Courts and we will provide our readers with a further update once the matter concludes.