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The New SRA handbook: What you NEED to know

The deadline has arrived for the new SRA Standards and Regulations. Are you prepared?

Following the SRA response published in June 2018 to its consultation on the new SRA Handbook, it was announced that the launch date of the new ‘Standards and Regulations’ will be 25 November 2019. That deadline is just around the corner. So what should law firms be aware of?

The SRA acknowledged that the current Handbook is complex, long, repetitive and costly to apply. They have therefore produced a more simplified and user friendly Handbook entitled 'Standards and Regulations'.

Chair of the SRA Board, Anna Bradley, said: "Our new regulations place a sharp focus on the high professional standards that we and the public expect, while allowing solicitors greater freedom in how they deliver their services...

...By stripping away outdated and unnecessary rules and giving solicitors more flexibility to design and deliver their services around their clients, our new regulations are designed to help people access a wide range of high quality services with the confidence that proper protections are in place. That can only be good for both the public and the profession."

Solicitors will have greater freedom to use professional judgement rather than follow the current, arguably, rather rigid rules.

So what what’s changed?

  • Creating separate codes of conduct for firms and solicitors
  • Simpler Account Rules that focus on the principles of keeping client money safe, rather than lots of specific technical rules
  • Freeing up solicitors to carry out ‘non-reserved’ legal work from within a business not regulated by a legal services regulator
  • Allowing solicitors to provide reserved legal services on a freelance basis

What about the Principles?

The New SRA Handbook has reduced the number of Principles to just 7!

The following 4 Principles have been removed:

  • No 5: provide a proper standard of service to your clients;
  • No 7: comply with your legal and regulatory obligations and deal with your regulators and ombudsmen in an open, timely and co-operative manner;
  • No 8: run your business or carry out your role in the business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles; and
  • No 10: protect client money and assets), given that these are already covered by existing Principles or rules.

The new and remaining Principles state:

You act:

  1. in a way that upholds the constitutional principle of the rule of law, and the proper administration of justice.
  2. in a way that upholds public trust and confidence in the solicitors' profession and in legal services provided by authorised persons.
  3. with independence.
  4. with honesty.
  5. with integrity.
  6. in a way that encourages equality, diversity and inclusion.
  7. in the best interests of each client.

Is anything completely New?

The SRA Application Notice Review and Appeals Rules, these rules combine general provisions about applications to and notices from the SRA section. The SRA Transparency Rules. These rules came into force early - December 2018! There is a new rule allows self-employed solicitors or RELs to provide reserved legal services to the public on their own account without the need to become a Recognised Sole Practice.

 …….and the Code of Conduct?

The Code of Conduct is now divided up into different sections, or Codes:

  • Code for Solicitors,
  • Code for Registered European Lawyers (RELs) and Registered Foreign Lawyers (RFLs)
  • Code for Firms (which includes requirements for COLPs and COFAs).

The Code for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs details the “standards of professionalism” expected by the SRA and the Code for Firms describes the expected “standards and business controls”.

The New Codes are moving away from focusing on the culture of a firm and the systems being and placing more emphasis on the behaviour of individuals.

The structure of the Code has been simplified to the follow 5 Sections:

  • “You and your client”
  • “You and your business”
  • “You and your regulator”
  • “You and others and Applications”

The Strategic Partner’s Compliance Service

At The Strategic Partner, we have designed a Regulation and compliance service which provides firms with an interactive solution to ensure your firm has the necessary policies, procedures and controls in place to ensure you are and remain compliant.

Our competitively priced service gives firms peace of mind that they are operating in a compliant way and relieves some of the pressure of what can be a time consuming task for the COLP, COFA and other staff.

If you have any concerns about the new rules, how to apply them in your practice or simply wish to understand more The Strategic Partner are here to assist you.

For more information read our product brochure and website or you can call us on 02078421830.

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