2013 was a year of progress but also of frustration.
In May we submitted our application to license alternative business structures to the Legal Services Board. The application was well received and the LSB recommended our designation to the Lord Chief Justice with minimal enquiries to us. The licensing arrangements require a statutory instrument and, frustratingly, we found ourselves caught up in the intractable machinations of the Ministry of Justice and the parliamentary timetable. Our plans to start licensing in Spring 2014 were thwarted. We now plan to start in January 2015.
On other fronts we have more success to report, not least with the new website.
As ever, all undertaken and delivered by a very small team.
Report from The Chief Executive
The principal activity of the Board was the submission of our application to become a Licensing Authority.
We have created a dedicated section on our website and have published FAQs on key aspects of the new regime; for example on the role of the Head of Legal Practice (HoLP) and the Head of Finance and Administration (HoFA).
In October we hosted a webinar on the handling of client monies and this was repeated in March 2014. There is now a dedicated page on the handling of client monies.
We publish our Board Minutes on the website and registrants can track all our activities.
Our Business Plan for 2014 can be found via this link
Alternative Business Structures (ABS) – Looking ahead
In May 2013 we submitted a licensing authority application on behalf of CIPA and ITMA to the Legal Services Board (“LSB”). The application was submitted on time, in accordance with the LSB’s timetable and, unlike other applicants whose applications were the subject of numerous questions, we had very few queries from the LSB. On 6 December the LSB recommended to the Lord Chancellor that CIPA and ITMA be designated as licensing authorities and we are delighted that on 6 March the Lord Chancellor accepted that recommendation. Both the end result, and our experience of the process, are testimony to our commitment to a cost-effective, principles-based approach to regulation. At all points we have resisted both the introduction of complex rules that constrain innovation and, similarly, increasing resources, except where there is a demonstrable need. We believe that expertise, rather than numbers of staff, makes for an efficient and effective regulator.
Our one frustration has been the secondary legislation required to designate CIPA and ITMA as licensing authorities, and ensure that they will have the necessary powers on designation. Despite meeting all requested deadlines, we are still in the process of agreeing the form of these orders with the LSB and the Ministry of Justice. This process has been delayed due to changes in staff at the Ministry of Justice and also to meet the parliamentary timetable. Eventually, our Board informed the LSB and Ministry of Justice that it was better to provide certainty for our regulated community, rather than a date that might or might not change. We now expect to commence licensing on 1 January 2015.
We look forward to licensing and the opportunities for innovation in terms of business models that it will facilitate.
We promised to publish the costs of the licensing exercise separately from our general budget.
We received £73,445 in ring-fenced income in 2013 and this was spent as follows:
Legal Consultants: £37,440
Legal Counsel: £35,073
Board and other related costs: £1,344
In addition, within the 2013 General Budget, the Board created a contingency for restructuring of £100,000 to include the cost of any necessary relocation.
Because of the delay only a small element of this contingency has been spent and £88,567 [£50,000 post audit] is still being held in a dedicated reserve to meet these costs in 2015 including the charge (£40,000) which will be due to the First Tier of the General Regulatory Chamber as the appellate body for all firms.
Following lengthy correspondence the delayed submission for the new Patent Examination Board was approved by the Patent Regulation Board and at the end of 2013 we launched our consultation on the modernisation of the route to qualification for patent attorneys.
We will be updating our Education Plan in 2014.
We launched this new website in 2013. There are, within the same web address, two “home pages.” The first home page is directed to the public and is intended to assist the public in understanding our role and also to provide guidance on matters such as litigation. We have included a jargon buster.
“IPReg Pro” is dedicated to the registrants although, apart from the individual data accounts, the public can access this site also and read our rules and regulations.
CPD compliance is certified and practice fees paid via the IPReg Pro Accounts.
This has been a two year project undertaken jointly by Karen Duxbury and I, with the assistance of an external IT Consultant.
We provided for £70,000 in our budget. There is an underspend of £16,394 which will be carried forward to pay for enhancements such as a print function.
|Applications for Admission to the Patent Register
|Applications for Admission to the Trade Mark Register
|Applications by Entities
In 2013 the Legal Ombudsman accepted two complaints for investigation. The first led to an informal resolution and in the second the complainant did not accept the decision of the Ombudsman.
In addition the Legal Ombudsman received 8 “contacts” which were deemed “premature” – this is usually when the firm has not yet had the opportunity to investigate the complaint under its internal complaints handling procedure.
Clearly there is insufficient data to detect any trend.
The cases against two patent attorneys were determined in 2013 and the outcomes published.
The Complaints Review Committee met twice in 2013. Both cases were rejected as not evidencing a prima facie case against the attorney.
We have developed a Complaints and Enforcement Policy and this has been published on our website. In the absence of evidence of client detriment or gross misconduct, a complaint by one professional lawyer against another is unlikely to be accepted.
We have a webpage dedicated to our finances where we post our budgets, comparisons of spend against budget and also our audited accounts but a pie chart format report can be viewed here
We have deferred our planned recruitment until late 2014 (to time with our new licensing responsibilities starting in January 2015) when we plan to recruit two additional members of staff.
However, after 4 years of operation, it may be timely to report that the IPReg staff still consists of Kate Hastings (Administrator – 2 days each week), Karen Duxbury (Accountant – three days each week) and I (Chief Executive also 3 days each week).
The new members of staff will also be part time.
Fees have been held for 2014. There has been no increase in fees since 2011.