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A 'fine' day may be a bleak one after higher penalty application

Posted by: Laurence Simons 11/12/14

Legal executives found guilty of misconduct may face huge fines under new proposals. Few things are more troublesome for the legal profession than someone letting the side down with bad behaviour, for which reason there are many who would welcome tougher penalties for transgressors.

Bearing this in mind, it may not be fair to accuse ILEX Professional Standards (IPS) of lacking the Christmas spirit in the wake of its application to the Legal Services Board (LSB) to massively increase the fines that can be levied on chartered legal executives.

According to Legal Futures, IPS wants to see the maximum fine rise from a manageable £3,000 to an eye-watering £50 million.

It is not the first time someone has tried to raise the maximum penalty this year, with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) having also tried to bring in a £50 million ceiling. In September it had a less ambitious attempt to raise the upper fine for solicitors from the current £2,000 to £10,000.

As well as trying to increase individual fines to £50 million, the SRA also tried to raise the biggest penalty for a firm to £250 million. This would have brought solicitors in line with companies operating under alternative business structures.

Ultimately, the motivation for this is not to ruin Christmas for wayward legal executives, but to ensure they don't spoil it for clients, particularly vulnerable ones.

IPS said: "An increase in the fine level will ensure that there is an adequate deterrent. It will bring consistency between legal services regulators.

"It will also demonstrate to the public and consumers that IPS has considered the risks that its regulated community may pose to their interests and that it is able to protect them adequately."

The rules will apply to all practitioners from the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and their approved managers, although students working with them will also be potentially subject to fines, albeit at a ceiling of £100,000 - which would put the rise in tuition fees in perspective.

In the end, however, the legal sector may be the winner. After all, with such deterrents, the instances of misconduct will, it is hoped, fall dramatically.