Accountants could offer legal services to their clients, including representing them in court to argue taxation cases if proposed regulatory changes are approved.  The Legal Services Board (LSB) has written to the Lord Chancellor recommending that he allows the ICAEW, the accountants’ professional body, to regulate five ‘reserved legal activities’.

The ICAEW wants accountants to be able to conduct litigation, have rights of audience in court and prepare legal instruments for taxation-related cases.  It has also applied for accountants to offer notarial services and administer oaths.  A decision on the application is expected within 12 months.

Duncan Wiggetts, ICAEW’s Executive Director of Professional Standards has welcomed the LSB’s move.  In a statement he said that its recommendation was a ‘positive step’ for consumers who want to use Chartered Accountants’ firms as an alternative to traditional providers. “The LSB’s decision is evidence of the role that it is playing in transforming the provision of legal services and giving more choice to the consumer,” he said.

The move into legal services could help accountancy firms which may lose work through the gradual digitalisation of tax, believes Peter James, the ICAEW’s head of regulatory policy. “The opportunity here to be able to not just prepare documents for court cases around tax but actually to go and present the arguments is an added skill base they’d be able to use,” he said.

The Legal Services Act 2007 opened up the way for more professions to offer legal services,” said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions.  “The ICAEW was one of the first to take advantage of the new powers and successfully applied to regulate probate services in 2014.  In the future, accountancy practices which take advantage of new opportunities to provide legal advice will need to make sure that their professional indemnity insurance covers all the services they are offering.  We are ready to help our clients when the time comes.”

Details of the ICAEW’s application appear at www.icaew.com/reservedlegalservices. Reports on the issue have been published by Accountingweb and Accountancy Age.

Brunel secures competitive professional indemnity insurance cover for accountants.  To find out more call Mark Sommariva on 0203 475 3275.