Industry News

SRA Proposed Regulatory Reform: Looking to the Future

25 October 2016

The SRA is currently reviewing feedback on its proposals for an overhaul of the SRA Handbook, which include separate Codes of Conduct for individual solicitors and for firms (after acknowledging their ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work) and a revision of the SRA principles.

Implementation is likely to be late 2017 at the earliest, as once the SRA has finalised its proposals following the consultation, it will then have to submit an application to the Legal Services Board to alter their regulatory arrangements.  

The proposed Codes will be substantially shorter than the current Code, with the removal of much prescriptive detail and duplication. The mandatory Outcomes introduced in 2011 will be largely replaced by Professional Standards and Indicative Behaviours will be removed and incorporated elsewhere, if they are considered still appropriate. Cross references to legislation will be removed: effectively, the Codes will set out your regulatory duties and not serve as a reminder of the statutory obligations, with which you must comply as a matter of law anyway. (There is sense in this, once you accept the loss of the comfort blanket of certain of these being flagged for you by your regulator, although this may well simply result in a reorganisation/reclassification of materials and guidance on the SRA website.) It is proposed that gaps in the 2011 Code, such as those relating to supervision and accountability, will be plugged and new standards will be included (e.g. relating to continuing competence).

As you may be aware, the Law Society is concerned that, far from improving access to legal services and enabling solicitors to work in the ‘alternative’ legal market, the proposal for solicitors to be able to provide some legal services outside of regulated firms will create a two-tier system of solicitors, with a potentially negative impact on client protection, as well as on the wider issue of legal professional privilege (as there would be none in unregulated entities). It also has concerns that the changes relating to supervision would enable newly qualifieds to set up unregulated firms and, more generally, about the standing of the solicitor profession. 

The consultation response is not likely to be published until the first half of 2017.

Ian Braithwaite
Client Relationship Manager

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M: 0743 727 4046

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