Proposals to allow solicitors to practice as freelancers face further scrutiny

Regulator proposals to permit solicitors to practice as freelancers have been subject to further scrutiny this week.

The Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) have warned that if introduced, the plans could increase confusion among consumers, particularly in regard to the differing levels of protection offered by solicitors.

The proposals from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) form part of the second stage of amendments to its rules, with the handbook being simplified and reduced in size.

Taking the view that solicitors should be able to practice in the same way that barristers do, the plans from the SRA would mean that individual self-employed solicitors and Registered European Lawyers would be able to provide reserved legal services on their own account. This would be without the need to work through an authorised body or be a Recognised Sole Practice.

Whilst acknowledging that this could improve the flexibility of practice for solicitors, the LSCP highlighted its two key concerns in response to this particular proposal:

  • The level of experience and skills required to deliver a practice equivalent to a law firm.
  • The clear definition of standard remedies insurance.

In relation to the concerns of consumer confusion potentially stemming from the absence of key protection, the panel recommended:

  • Similar levels of protection for self-employed solicitors delivering unregulated service, as for solicitors working in unregulated firms.
  • Self-employed solicitors should be required to operate under the same transparency requirements under CMA recommendation, as the other sole solicitors regulated by the SRA.

The full response can be found here.

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