Last updated on November 20th, 2017 at 04:10 pm
The UK court of appeal has rejected calls from the accountancy profession for legal professional privilege (LPP) to be extended to the profession.
Dismissing the appeal, Lord Justice Lloyd said the definition of LPP was a matter for parliament not for the courts. He commented “If it were to apply to members of other professions who give advice on points of law in the course of their professional activity, serious questions would arise as to its scope and application. To which accountants should it apply, given that ‘accountant’ does not by itself denote membership of any particular professional body, or the obligation to comply with any, or any particular, professional obligations?”
“To which other professional advisers would it apply? To what areas of the law would it apply as regards the advice of any adviser who is not a lawyer as such? These questions are serious and important and would require a clear answer in order that the scope and application of the extended LPP should be known and understood.”
The judicial review application was brought by the insurance company Prudential and was backed by the ICAEW and said that LPP should apply to advice given by accountants as the same advice given by solicitors or barristers enjoyed the protection provided by LPP.
From the comments made by Lord Justice Lloyd it seems that one of the problems is that anyone is entitled to call themselves an accountant and that there is no need to join a professional body, or take any professional qualifications, to do so. This is unlike the legal profession which is protected and means that you can only call yourself a solicitor if you are qualified and registered. The author wonders whether the next step will be that firms of accountants employ a solicitor to “sign off” the advice or act as a go-between between the client and the accountant – he knows that given the choice between the advice from an accountant or a lawyer when dealing with tax he would go to an accountant every time, just like he would go to a solicitor when buying or selling a house or for legal advice about employment etc.