LSB approve ABS licensing changes

LSB approve ABS licensing changes

The Legal Services Board have approved measures to make it simpler for multi-disciplinary practices (MDPs) to be licensed as alternative business structures (ABS) by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

The SRA state that their changes are designed to ensure a proportionate regime for firms delivering a range of professional services involving other regulators. The proposals were agreed by the SRA’s Board in September, and were ratified by the LSB on Tuesday 21 October. Amendments will be made to the SRA’s Handbook at the end of month.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said:

“The changes should pave the way for other potential MDPs to come forward and offer reserved legal activities alongside other professional services. This is an important milestone in our reform programme, increasing competition and encouraging growth in the legal services market.”

When licensing an MDP, the approach taken by the SRA to the regulation of non-reserved legal activity performed by non-legal professionals will be a flexible one – driven by the risks posed by the particular circumstances. The context when any particular non-reserved legal activity will be excluded from SRA ‘regulated activity’ is that:

  1. Reserved activity will always be SRA regulated.
  2. The MDP as a whole will be authorised and regulated by the SRA. The MDP and those who own it and work within it will need to comply with the terms of the SRA Authorisation Rules for Legal Service Bodies and Licensable Bodies, as well as with the SRA Principles and other authorisation and practising requirements applicable to licensed bodies and their owners managers and employees as set out in the SRA Handbook. For example, the SRA Disciplinary Procedure Rules will apply to all employees and managers. Information from across the MDP will be disclosable to the SRA in accordance with the provisions of s93 LSA and any misconduct of the firm or its members or employees in non-SRA regulated areas may be taken into account in relation to the firm’s fitness to hold the licence, or compliance with conditions.
  3. Solicitors, RELs and RFLs will continue to be subject to personal regulation by the SRA. Other authorised individuals will be subject to the relevant personal requirements of their own regulator.
  4. However an activity that falls out of SRA regulated activity will not be subject to many of the other detailed provisions in the Handbook – including the professional indemnity insurance and Compensation Fund provisions, the Accounts Rules and many of the provisions in the SRA Code of Conduct.

Full details of the SRA’s policy to multi-disciplinary practices will be found on the SRA web site

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