SRA launches further handbook consultation

SRA launches further handbook consultation

The SRA yesterday launched a consultation paper setting out a unified regulatory Handbook for both traditional law firms and ABSs.

The consultation is the fourth issued by the SRA on fundamental changes to the way in which solicitors and firms are regulated, to take effect from October 2011 ? the date when ABSs will also be licensed.

It includes the draft Code of Conduct, revised and developed following responses to the May consultation, plus rules governing key regulatory protections such as the Accounts Rules (to protect clients’ money), new tighter procedures for the authorisation of firms and individuals, and reformed disciplinary procedures. It also sets out the proposed new information requirements for firms, to enable the SRA to target its resources on the areas of highest risk.

Chief Executive Antony Townsend said:

“Our programme to transform regulation remains on track for 2011. The reforms will help us identify and concentrate on the areas of highest risk, help firms focus on the quality of service to consumers, and bring greater flexibility for well-managed firms, enabling them to deliver services in ways suited to their clients and type of business.”

The new consultation paper addresses issues and themes raised in the May consultation including:

  • limited guidance where appropriate,
  • a new chapter on conflicts of interest,
  • provisions as to separate business arrangements,
  • a review of outcomes and indicative behaviour in respect of in-house practice
  • redrafted principle 9 on equality and diversity,
  • more detail on information requirements for firms setting out the key areas of risk, the criteria the SRA will use to determine the data required, and some examples of current thinking,
  • retention of requirement for all firms to have a Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) and Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration (COFA),
  • redrafted the regulations for education and training.

One major issue highlighted for discussion is the definition of reserved legal activities. The SRA has asked the Legal Services Board (LSB) to extend the definition to cover all “solicitor activities”, to avoid consumer confusion over which legal services are regulated and which are not and we welcome the LSB’s commitment to examine the appropriateness of the extent of reserved activities.

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