Following The Law Society’s recent condemnation of the Solicitor Regulatory Authority’s (SRA) transparency reforms, The Law Society have now opposed the SRA’s plans to amend the Solicitors’ Handbook.
In a recent letter to the Legal Services Board and a press release this morning, The Law Society have argued that the ‘Looking to the Future’ reform proposals are ‘concerning.’
Furthermore, The Law Society are worried that the SRA are “pursuing two controversial proposals despite strong opposition from The Law Society and our members.”
The Law Society oppose two major amendments. Firstly, the SRA proposal to permit sole solicitors to act outside the protections of a recognised sole practice. The amendments suggest that solicitors would not be subject to entity regulation.
This amendment also implies that a freelance solicitor would be free to deliver non-reserved services, like Will writing, to the public. The draft amendment also does indicate that a freelance solicitor should have ‘adequate insurance for both reserved and non-reserved work,’ although an actual figure is not specified.
In response, The Law Society, in their letter to The Legal Services Board, have commented: “The proposal removes protections from which clients benefit if they use a regulated sole practitioner and regulated firm. For example, a regulated sole practitioner and firm must have professional indemnity insurance equivalent to the SRA’s minimum terms and conditions, and a person with three years’ practising experience, whereas a freelance solicitor would not be obliged to purchase insurance to this level, and would be free to deliver non-reserved services without prior work experience.
“In addition, there is the lack of clarity regarding the protection of client money. The SRA proposes to restrict freelance solicitors undertaking reserved work from holding client money, but it is not clear whether similar restrictions will apply in relation to non-reserved work.
“It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect clients to understand the difference between a recognised sole practice and a sole solicitor.”
The second major opposition made by The Law Society regards permitting solicitors to deliver non-reserved legal services from unregulated entities.
The Law Society, claim: “This proposal would remove crucial client protections, such as mandatory professional indemnity insurance, access to the compensation fund, and legal professional privilege.
“We have seen no evidence that this rule change will deliver benefits or reduce the price of legal services. At the same time, it places an unrealistic burden on clients to understand the different regulatory status of solicitors working in different entities and different models of practice.”
The Law Society have urged members to make similar objections and they have until September 4th to lodge their formal concerns with the Legal Services Board.
In a time when the SRA are trying to produce transparency of price and services, are they risking diluting standards and confusing the consumer even more? Do you share similar concerns to those expressed by The Law Society? Or, do you think that these amendments will lead to greater competition within the industry which will have a positive impact on the customer experience?