The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have released its register of waivers which allows certain exemptions for specific rules that do not apply to individual firms.
The ‘safe space’ and register of waivers system was launched in the hope of reducing the restrictions on business, thus enabling many firms to operate with more freedom that will allow them to offer legal services in new and innovative ways.
Laker Legal Solicitors LTD has been given exemption from SRA rule 15 concerning the formation of a registered office and practising address. The exemption allows the virtual firm to use a PO Box address as opposed to a physical premises because the business operates as an online presence and does not operate as a traditional high street firm.
Additionally, the Derbyshire Constabulary in-house legal department which sought exemptions from the SRA Practice Framework Rule 4.1 which states that a firm must not act for clients other than your employer, has also been given an official waiver.
The legal department needed to provide legal services to Northampton Fire and Rescue Services but were restricted through SRA rules. Because of amendments to the 2017 Policing and Crime Act, greater collaboration is required between emergency services. However, the current SRA rules prohibit the Derbyshire in-house solicitors from providing legal services to any other department including the Fire and Rescue Service.
Because of the greater risk to public safety if the Policing and Crime Act were circumvented and the lack of risk to consumer protection if the SRA frameworks are broken, the waiver was offered.
Interestingly, of the twenty-three active SRA approved waivers in place, eighteen involve avoiding the appointment of Compliance Officers for Legal Practice (COLPs) and Compliance Officers for Finance and Administration (COFAs) as the firms are non-trading recognised bodies and as such their work will not risk consumer protection.
Despite the SRA publishing the waivers from July, they have no intention of releasing the 1,300 suspected waivers before this time.
As the SRA move to create industry transparency for consumers, the fact that their own records are becoming transparent will be welcomed by many.
The additional fact that these ‘safe space’ waivers allow many in the industry to offer their services in a nuanced and unique way without the anxieties of SRA rule breakages will be valued across the legal sector as it will promote innovation, growth and improve competition.
Do these SRA waivers improve competition by taking a firm’s individual requirements into account? Does this ensure that the consumer will be offered a better experience?