The SRA has indicated that they expect the new Handbook, including the new Code of Conduct, to become effective by the end of July.
Firms can expect guidance in February giving them around four to five months to prepare for the changes.
Legal Eye clients have been invited to give early feedback as the SRA seeks to engage firms with the changes. Clients will be required to review and amend their processes and systems in order to comply with the new principles, codes and rules to be contained in the new regulations (previously contained in the Handbook).
At the SRA conference towards the end of 2018 the SRA confirmed that changes being introduced include:
- Creating separate Codes of Conduct for firms and solicitors and simple Account Rules that focus on keeping client money safe.
- Freeing up solicitors to carry out ‘non-reserved’ legal work working within a business not regulated by a legal services regulator. Such solicitors would be bound by the Code, would not be able to hold client money, and would have specific insurance requirements (as yet to be clarified). They must also make clear to the users of their services exactly what protections are in place, including not providing access to the SRA Compensation Fund.
- Allowing solicitors to provide reserved legal services on a freelance basis. Freelancers would not be able to hold client money or employ staff and must have appropriate indemnity insurance. They must also explain to clients what regulatory protections apply.
- Introducing a new enforcement strategy, providing greater clarity on when and how we would take action against a firm or solicitor.
Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “We have worked closely with the profession and the public to develop our proposals over the last four years, engaging with more than 35,000 people. I am pleased there was widespread support for our overall approach and that we received so much useful feedback.
“We are now ready to make the changes that are needed to modernise both our regulation and the legal market. Our reforms focus on what matters: the high professional standards that offer real public protection rather than unnecessary bureaucracy that generates costs, constrains firms and hinders access to legal services. We believe that the changes will make it easier for firms and solicitors to do business and to meet the needs of those who need their services.”
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