The Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) has been finalising a package of reforms designed to provide solicitors and law firms with greater flexibility over how they operate, making legal services more accessible to the public.
These include the new Price Transparency Rules set to be introduced on 6 December 2018, the Insurance Distribution Directive and reforms to the SRA Handbook including revised Account Rules.
In our recent webinar, Richard Williams, Policy Associate at the SRA, Ruth Cohen, Legal and Research Executive at VinciWorks and Gary Yantin, Director of Best Practice at VinciWorks explored the upcoming changes to the SRA Handbook. The webinar explored the implications of the SRA reforms and gave guidance and tips on how to be SRA compliant.
The Legal Services Board has granted in full the application from the Solicitor Regulation Authority (SRA) for the new SRA Handbook which is set to be enforced in April 2019. In their 150 page Summary of Decision, the Legal Services Board did not find sufficient reasons to refuse the application.
Back in August 2018, the SRA applied to the Legal Services Board to approve the SRA Handbook changes as part of their Looking to the Future Program. The Legal Services Board issued an extension notice for their decision following heavy pushback from The Law Society, as well as 128 further representations, the majority supporting The Law Society’s position. However, despite this opposition, the Legal Services Board concluded that the SRA Handbook changes do not meet the refusal criteria.
Ruth Cohen, Legal and Research Executive at VinciWorks
Director of Best Practice Gary Yantin and Legal and Research Executive Ruth Cohen recently travelled to Birmingham to meet with the SRA and discuss what’s coming up in the next 12 months. The new SRA Handbook is going to see some important changes in the regulation of solicitors, and we’re working hard at VinciWorks to make sure you have the tools you need to understand the Handbook and be compliant with the updated rules.
Overall, solicitors can not only expect a shorter, simpler code but two codes of conduct; one for individuals and one for firms. Nevertheless, the revised, 20th edition of the SRA Handbook was published on 1 October and contained a series of changes to the Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD).
The key changes being introduced by the SRA
SRA to provide regulatory guidance, yet support additional training from compliance providers
The SRA, while focusing on regulation, will be providing guidance to support the implementation of the upcoming regulatory changes. In addition to their own guidance, the SRA sees the role of compliance providers such as VinciWorks to provide additional guidance and training materials for law firms.
The Solicitors Regulatory Authority’ (SRA) Price Transparency Rules are set to come into effect in early December 2018. They provide a major change to how law firms must publicise their prices for certain services which they offer to clients and general consumers. This is part of key changes the SRA are carrying out as part of their Looking to the Future programme.
Who are the Price Transparency Rules intended for?
These are intended for law firms who are required to publish information on the prices and the services which they offer to consumers under Rule 1 of the SRA Transparency Rules. Those firms that are not obligated to provide a transparent pricing list may still find the Price Transparency Rules useful.
What are the aims of the new Price Transparency Rules?
The new Price Transparency Rules aim to ensure that before making certain choices regarding legal representation, consumers will be provided with pricing information, to allow them to make the most informed decisions regarding which legal services provider they choose. The aim is that by providing clear pricing details, consumer misunderstandings later in a transaction will be avoided, as a result of transparent information being provided from the onset.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) already holds a register of firms carrying out insurance distribution activities, so if you are already registered, then there is no further registration action required.
The SRA Handbook is due to be replaced in its entirety in 2019. However, on 1 October, 2018, the twentieth version of the SRA Handbook was published containing a number of changes to the Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD). This article will cover what you need to know about the key changes.
Since May 2014, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), as part of their Looking to the Future program, have carried out a number of public consultation papers regarding reforms to allow greater flexibility for solicitors and law firms, with the aim to make legal services more accessible to the public.
In August 2018, the SRA applied to the Legal Services Board (LSB) to approve their new regulatory arrangements which they are hoping to release during 2019. The answer from the LSB was expected within 28 days. However, the LSB has just extended their decision period to 90 days, meaning a ruling on the new SRA’s regulatory arrangements is now expected by November 5, 2018.
The SRA has just published their decision and response to the ‘looking to the future’ consultation on changes to the SRA handbook. Over 11,000 people engaged in the process, reflecting opinion from a broad range of people and organisations including solicitors, law firms the public and representative bodies.
Solicitors can not only expect a shorter, simpler code, but two codes of conduct; one for individuals and one for firms.
This will allow for one of the most significant changes since, and partly because of, the Legal Services Act 2007. The changes, expected sometime in 2018, will allow solicitors to offer non-reserved legal services outside of regulated firms.
On Wednesday 22nd March, around 100 firms joined Director of Best Practice Gary Yantin and SRA Policy Executive Richard Williams to discuss the first five months of the SRA’s new approach to Continuing Competence. The conversation focused on how firms have implemented the new approach and how the SRA will monitor compliance with it.
“Firms should be asking: what do I need to do to do the job well?”
Richard stressed the importance of focussing on the quality of learning, rather than the quantity. He reflected on the previous approach to CPD, whereby solicitors and law firms would often leave training to the last minute, without a focus on what they should be learning. The new approach should help change that culture and encourage individuals to identify their learning needs, rather than the amount of time they spend on training. Richard also said that “learning and development has a huge business benefit”, a factor that should encourage firms to implement the new approach.
November 2016 marks the beginning of the SRA’s new approach to continuing competence. Solicitors in England and Wales are no longer required to track 16 hours of continued education. Rather, they are required to reflect on their practice and identify personal learning and development needs.
These regulatory changes require a shift in the way learning is recorded in your learning management system. VinciWorks has recently updated its Learning Management System to accommodate these changes.
From recording diverse learning methods to producing completion certificates, the VinciWorks system makes adapting to the changes to CPD simple and straightforward. The changes are only relevant to law firms operating in England and Wales, and do not affect historical data in the system.
Under the SRA’s New Approach to Continuing Competence, solicitors are required to reflect on the SRA’s Competence Statement, identify knowledge gaps and undertake learning to bridge those gaps.
All of VinciWorks’ courses correspond to competencies in the Competence Statement and can be used to bridge learning gaps. The guide below is a complete mapping of our courses with the Competence Statement.
Download the guide