SRA open up consultation on size and scope of handbook

The Solicitors Regulation Authority are proposing slashing their handbook to enable Solicitors to work across new fields and markets like will writing, advice on social welfare, employment or tax

The consultation is set to run until September with the SRA saying they want to move away from “complex, prescriptive rules” to a focus on “principles and professional standards.”

The reformed documents as they are proposed will include separate codes of conduct for firms and solicitors and will give solicitors more freedom to work outside regulated firms.
The SRA believe this will enable them to drive costs down while simultaneously pushing standards up.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “We want to move away from complex rules and unnecessary bureaucracy – bureaucracy that costs money and needs continuous updating. Our focus has to be on high professional standards set independently in the public interest. That can only be good for the profession and for the public.

“Some of the current rules are out of step with a legal market that is rapidly changing We plan to give solicitors more freedom to work outside regulated firms. That will give the public more choice, increasing access to high quality legal services at a price they can afford.

“Our proposals for a shorter, sharper and clearer Handbook will free up law firms and individual solicitors to get on with the business of delivering quality legal services, while making sure there is absolute clarity about public protection.”

Crispin Passmore, Executive Director, Policy said: “We will be clear about the standards we expect from individual solicitors wherever and however they practise. And we will also set clear standards for firms so that they have systems and controls to ensure that their legal services are safe and ethical. Clear standards are accompanied by freedom and flexibility for you to practise or run your business as you think fit so long as you maintain those standards.

“For the few that do not want to, can’t or won’t meet those standards, we need to be a robust regulator. That does not mean second guessing small firms but means focusing on those that risk or cause serious harm to consumers or undermine the rule of law and proper administration of justice. Following this consultation we will consult on other changes, including to our enforcement policy so that you can have confidence in when your regulator will take action.

“But the starting point in any regulatory environment is clear professional standards. We think our new Codes of Conduct and SRA Accounts Rules provide that. But we know that you will have views on making them better.”

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