For some time now, the SRA have been, as part of a wider “Looking to the Future” exercise, consulting on proposed changes and commissioning research with a view to consulting on and implementing these changes.
At the end of September, the SRA published two further consultations, namely:
- • Looking to the Future – Phase 2 of the Handbook Reforms; and
- • Looking to the Future – better information, more choice.
Both consultations are running in parallel and as well as the consultation documents (which are 50+ pages each) each consultation document has a summary – which is a good place to start to get an overview of the key points and proposed changes.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
Looking to the Future – phase 2 of the Handbook reforms:
As the title suggest this Consultation is looking at the much publicised and widely debated Handbook Reforms which aim to make the current Code of Conduct shorter and simpler for solicitors, dividing the Rules into two Codes – one for solicitors and one for firms focussing on high professional standards and the intended consequences of falling short of those standards as well as reducing what is termed “unnecessary bureaucracy”.
As well as looking at the Code, there are proposed changes to the Authorisation Rules relating to how the SRA approves firms and the Practice Framework Rules including how the SRA assess the suitability of those entering the profession.
A few of the key proposals include:
- • allowing a solicitor to provide reserved legal services, where the solicitor has professional indemnity insurance, does not employ anyone and does not hold client money, on a freelance basis – similar to the way in which barristers work;
- • Point of entry to the profession mandatory character and suitability testing thus removing the earlier checks on students and those entering a period of recognised training.
- • Creating a centralised appeals process and a revised Enforcement Strategy with clear framework for solicitors and firms to follow.
- • Transitional arrangement for the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) which will be introduced in 2020 but allowing those who have commenced the process through current routes to have a fair opportunity to complete their training by 2031.
In addition, the consultation lists what are considered to be some of the more restrictive rules that increase costs for firms without providing satisfactory public benefit – ie:
- • The need for early checks on students and trainees.
- • The need for a solicitor owner or manager to seek SRA approval before moving firms or roles.
- • Rules governing ‘qualified to supervise’, which do not provide any guarantee of competence.
The second consultation was also published at the end of September[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
Looking to the Future – better information, more choice
This proposes that the legal profession provide better information on the price and quality of the legal services they offer to help create a more competitive market with increased informed choice for consumers and a thriving market for the legal profession. The Competition and Markets Agency Report highlighted the above issues and, as a result, in June of this year the SRA produced a Report entitled “Improving Access – Tackling Unmet Legal Needs”, an update to the Risk Outlook.
Key proposals in this second consultation include:
- • A digital register of the firms and individuals that the SRA regulate, bringing data together into one place.
- • Publication of data on client’s complaints to law firms and areas of practice.
- • A requirement for firms to publish information on price and description of services for certain legal services on their website – limited initially to specific legal services including conveyancing, wills & probate, employment tribunals, personal injury and family matters.
- • A requirement to show regulatory status and protections through the use of an SRA logo and digital badge which is intended to assist fully regulated firms to differentiate themselves within the legal market.
- • A requirement for solicitors working outside Legal Services Act regulated firms to provide information on the client protections they have in place.
What should you do?
There is no requirement to do anything. However, together these two consultations are wide-reaching and will have a significant impact on the whole profession in the short, medium and longer term.
Both consultations close on 20th December 2017 and individuals have until then to respond via an on-line questionnaire.
Help shape the future of the profession for yourselves and for future generations by having your say.
To access both Consultations, Looking to the Future – Phase 2 of the Handbook Reforms and Looking to the Future – better information, more choice click here (http://www.sra.org.uk/sra/policy/future/looking-future.page).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]