Reserved legal activities
Section 12 of the Legal Services Act 2007 (“the LSA”) first sets out the six specific legal services activities that only those who are authorised (or those who are exempt) can carry on. These are called “reserved legal activities” and their scope is set out in Schedule 2.
Lawyers carrying on these activities are regulated by the approved regulators in the legal services sector, working under the oversight of the LSB.
The six reserved legal activities are:
|Reserved legal activity||Description||Additional detail|
|the exercise of a right of audience||the right to appear before and address a court, including the right to call and examine witnesses||NB: does not include a right to appear before or address a court, or to call or examine witnesses, in relation to any particular court or proceedings, if immediately before the day the relevant section of the LSA came into force, no restriction was placed on the persons entitled to exercise that right|
|the conduct of litigation||the issuing of proceedings before any court in England and Wales, the commencing, prosecuting and defending of those proceedings and the performing of any ancillary functions in relation to those proceedings (such as entering appearances to action||NB: does not include any of the activities stated in the adjacent column in relation to any particular court or proceedings, if immediately before the day the relevant section of the LSA came into force, no restriction was placed on the persons entitled to carry on those activities|
|reserved instrument activities||preparing any instrument of transfer or charge for the purposes of the Land Registration Act 2002, making an application or lodging a document for registration under that Act; and preparing any other instrument relating to real or personal estate for the purposes of the law of England and Wales or instrument relating to court proceedings in England and Wales||NB: does not include the preparation of an instrument relating to any particular court proceedings, if immediately before the day the relevant section of the LSA came into force, no restriction was placed on the persons entitled to carry on those activities.
“Instrument” includes a contract for the sale or other disposition of land (save for a contract to grant a short lease) but excludes:
|probate activities||preparing any probate papers for the purposes of the law of England and Wales or in relation to any proceedings in England and Wales||“probate papers” are those on which to found or oppose a grant of probate or a grant of letters of administration|
|notarial activities||activities which immediately before the day the relevant section of the LSA came into force, were customarily carried on by notaries under the Public Notaries Act 1801)||NB: does not include activities carried on:
|the administration of oaths||exercising powers conferred on a commissioner for oaths under the Commissioners for Oaths Act 1889; the Commissioners for Oaths Act 1891; and section 24 of the Stamp Duties Management Act 1891|
In certain circumstances, persons can carry on a reserved legal activity without needing to be authorised - they are considered exempt for the purposes of the LSA. Some examples follow in relation to two types of reserved legal activity we most frequently receive queries about, but to see the full list of exemptions, please refer to Schedule 3 of the LSA.
A right of audience
A person is considered to be exempt if:
- a right of audience has been granted by a specific court in relation to specific proceedings (e.g. to a paid or unpaid McKenzie Friend); or
- a right of audience has been granted before a specific court in relation to specific proceedings because of a particular legislative provision; or
- they are a party to particular proceedings and they would have a right of audience in their capacity as a party, had the LSA not been passed; or
- they are assisting in the conduct of litigation under instructions given by and under the supervision of an authorised person in proceedings which are being heard in chambers in the High Court or a county court (but which are not reserved family proceedings) (e.g. a trainee solicitor or paralegal).
Conduct of litigation
A person is considered to be exempt if:
- a right to conduct litigation has been granted by a specific court in relation to specific proceedings; or
- a right to conduct litigation has been granted in relation to specific proceedings because of a particular legislative provision; or
- they are a party to particular proceedings and they would have a right to conduct litigation in their capacity as a party, had the LSA not been passed.
Not all legal services activity is regulated and a person does not need to be authorised to carry on activities which are not reserved legal activities.
Other legal activity
Legal activity that falls outside of the regulatory framework of the Legal Services Act 2007 (LSA), and is therefore unreserved, includes:
- providing legal advice or assistance in connection with the application of the law or with any form of resolution of legal disputes;
- providing representation in connection with any matter concerning the application of the law or any form of resolution of legal disputes; and
- any activity that does not fall within one of the six reserved legal activity categories as set out on our FAQs main page.
However, it is worth noting that any activity of a judicial or quasi-judicial nature, including acting as mediator in legal disputes, is not included within this definition of “legal activity”.
It is also worth noting that under section 14 of the LSA, it is an offence for a person to carry on a reserved legal activity unless that person is entitled to do so. Under section 181 of the LSA, there is also a specific offence whereby a person who is not a barrister must not wilfully pretend to be a barrister or must not take or use any name, title or description with the intention of implying falsely that that person is a barrister. These are both criminal offences and you should consider whether any concerns you have need to be reported to the police.
Whilst we have set out the relevant provisions of the LSA, should you need further clarification - for example, relating to the scope of reserved and unreserved legal activity - you should consider seeking independent and specialist legal advice. The LSB does not have a statutory power to enable it to provide specific legal advice to members of the public or businesses about how the definitions of reserved legal activities might apply to a particular set of circumstances.