New Handbook Announced
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have announced controversial changes which, they claim, will help drive up professional standards, remove unnecessary bureaucracy and free up solicitors to work in new markets.
Following a consultation the SRA has announced the first phase of changes to its Handbook designed to simplify it and make it more relevant
With a 30 page code of conduct and more than 400 pages of rules, the SRA state that the Handbook is too long, complex, onerous and costly to apply. The first phase of revisions will, the SRA claim, create shorter, clearer principles and codes, as well as much simpler Accounts Rules which will be reduced from 41 to seven pages by focusing on the protections that the SRA believe matter and on keeping clients’ money safe.
One of the more controversial developments is that the revised Handbook will have a Code of Conduct for solicitors and another for firms. The aim is that every solicitor is absolutely clear about their personal obligations and responsibility to maintain the highest professional standards, whether they work in-house, inside or outside a firm that is Legal Service Act (LSA) regulated. The separate code for firms aims to make sure they have clarity about the systems and controls they need to provide good legal services for the public. The combined length of the two codes, with the principles, is 14 pages – reducing the length of the code by more than half.
Even more controversially, the SRA is planning to allow solicitors to work in non-LSA regulated and provide services such as will-writing and resolving employment disputes. Introduced to, allegedly, improve access to legal services, this will apparently change “outdated rules” constraining access to solicitors.
However, the SRA held back on their plans to introduce a new definition of ‘client money’ which would have excluded fees and disbursements in response to the concerns of practitioners.
Further information can be found on the SRA web site at www.sra.org.uk/sra/news/press/handbook-decision-2017.page