The Law Society has responded to news that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) wants to push ahead with rule changes that will create different tiers of regulation within the solicitor profession.
Law Society president Joe Egan said: “We urge the LSB as the oversight regulator to consider the best interests of the public as well as the globally recognised high standards of the UK legal services and reject the SRA’s damaging proposals to alter the rulebook for the profession.
“We welcome simpler rules governing solicitors, but the changes proposed by the SRA would create unnecessary complexity and confusion, making it much more difficult for consumers to reach informed choices about legal services. They may also put consumers at risk and ultimately undermine trust in legal services.
“Today, anyone who consults a solicitor can be confident their advisor is not only highly trained but is also operating within a robust regulatory framework that ensures consistent and comprehensive protection to give people peace of mind in the rare cases where something goes wrong. This allows consumers to make a clear choice between regulated and unregulated legal advisors.
“We applaud the SRA for recognising the folly of proposals to allow newly qualified solicitors immediately to set up shop unsupervised, even if they still hope to see solicitors working freelance, with neither a firm over their head nor the badge of sole practitioner and the protections they bring
“We believe that regulations should encourage and promote high standards of practice. Flexibility for solicitors should not come at the expense of client protections.
“Yet the regulator has failed to think through the implications for consumer protection. Nor has it proposed adequate safeguards.”
On moves to provide more information for consumers, Joe Egan added: “Many clients seek legal advice at moments of great anxiety and stress. Helping them to make informed choices about what is required to resolve their legal problems is at the heart of what solicitors do. We always aim to provide the right information, in the right way and at the right time.
“We remain concerned that having called for greater transparency about services offered by solicitors, the SRA cannot enforce this for solicitors they want to allow to work in unregulated entities. So consumers could be left unable to get much information about services from the very organisations that offer the least protection.”