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 late 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.
SRA Handbook allows for solicitors to serve unregulated businesses
The main point of contention was the SRA Handbook’s addition allowing solicitors to provide unreserved services to the public from businesses unregulated by the SRA. While the Legal Services Board noted that this change does present some risk to the regulatory objectives, they concluded that these risks, when set against the potential benefits, meet the regulatory objectives and public interest as a whole.
The changes to the SRA Handbook, include the following main policy areas:
- SRA Principles
- Code of Conduct for Solicitors
- Code of Conduct for Firms
- New Account Rules
- Allowing solicitors to provide unreserved services to the public from businesses which are not regulated by the SRA
- Allowing individual self-employed solicitors (freelancers) to provide reserved legal services without being authorised as an entity
- New requirements for firms to have an authorised person who has practised for three years
- Changes to the assessment of character and suitability
- Transitional arrangements for the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam
VinciWorks helping firms prepare for the new Handbook
Director of Best Practice Gary Yantin and Legal and Research Executive Ruth Cohen recently met with the SRA to discuss the changes to the Handbook. Further, VinciWorks’ SRA training suite contains four courses to help firms prepare for and comply with the SRA Standards and Regulations. This includes a course for accounts staff and a course specifically for firm owners and managers.