SRA looks to the future, setting out a new regulatory model

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has outlined its vision for the future, pushing ahead with a fundamental shift away from prescriptive rules in favour of protecting the public by setting out the principles solicitors should follow.

The SRA’s phased review of how it regulates was launched today with the publication of a position paper. In the paper, the SRA focuses on the future, committing to further simplify both its overall approach and the Handbook.

The SRA plans to give legal firms greater freedom to run their businesses as they need to. This flexibility will help firms adapt to the rapidly-changing legal market. And there are proposals to remove restrictions on where solicitors can work so that they can provide services such as legal advice more widely.

As well as providing greater freedom to firms and solicitors, the changes will mean more choice and access to services for the public. Part of the review will look at how to help the public chose the legal service that is right for them, and to know what protections are in place.

The SRA will focus its regulatory measures on the areas of greatest risk, helping to deliver more targeted, effective safeguards. The paper sets out plans for a new-look Handbook, with moves to much briefer guidance and resources.

Paul Philip, CEO of the SRA, said: “Today we are looking to the future and sharing our plans to review our regulatory model and our Handbook. At the heart of this is the goal of protecting the public and encouraging a vibrant, competitive legal market.

“The legal services market is developing at an unprecedented rate and the expected review of the Legal Services Act may bring further changes. We have to design an up-to-date and fit-for-purpose approach that will protect the public and give flexibility to the profession.

“We want to move away from a prescriptive set of complex rules to focus on core professional standards, with additional restrictions only when necessary.

“I want to see an end to the long and unwieldy Handbook and instead give the profession simple, clear guidance on what we require. And I think we can do much more to help the public find the services they need and to know what to do if things go wrong.

“This approach will benefit the public and the profession alike. It frees up solicitors and firms, boosting competition while ensuring a focus on the greatest risks to consumers and helping people to use legal services effectively.”

The SRA will launch a formal consultation on the proposed changes in spring next year. There will be further consultations as part of a phased review over the next eighteen months.

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