Small firms

Firm-based authorisationRead below some of our previous regulatory updates relevant to small firms.

Regulatory updates

Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)

We are now developing and will introduce the SQE to provide a common approach to assessing solicitors. This means that everyone will meet the same high standards in a consistent way, helping ensure public protection and confidence. The SQE has the potential to provide new training opportunities for would-be solicitors, and a more diverse talent pool for providers of legal services.

Find out more about the SQE

Regulation of consumer credit activities, April 2016

After the regulation of consumer credit activities was moved from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), we committed ourselves to finding the best way forward for law firms and users of legal services. We treated the change as a chance to review how to regulate the many law firms that carry out consumer credit activities.

Talking to small firms and sole practitioners about the changes focused our attention on the complexity of this area of regulation—and showed us that we could do more to help. Earlier this year, we launched a consumer credit toolkit. The toolkit is designed to help firms understand the regulatory requirements and deliver consumer credit services in a compliant way.

Our new rules relating to consumer credit activities came into force on 1 April. By now, all firms should have considered if they are affected by changes to the way consumer credit activities are regulated. Some firms may not be able to rely on our arrangements—and, so, may now need to be authorised by the FCA. If that is not an option for a given firm, it needs to stop carrying out consumer credit activities.

If your firm is delivering consumer credit services—whatever your circumstances—we recommend that you visit our consumer credit toolkit to learn more about the new regulatory approach.

SRA Handbook update, November 2015

We are committed to reforming our regulation, encouraging growth in the sector, and ensuring our approach is proportionate.

Changes introduced to the SRA Handbook on 1 November 2015 will make it easier for law firms to do business and see the removal of unnecessary regulations that do not protect the interests of clients. Changes that maybe relevant to you as a small firm or sole practitioner include:

  • Amendments to the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011 which mean that compliance officers will not need to be authorised by the SRA where the individual is a sole practitioner or a lawyer manager of an authorised body and the authorised body has an annual turnover of no more than £600,000.
  • Amendments to the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 which mean that:
    • firms with £10,000 or less average client account balance and a maximum client balance of £250,000 during the financial year will no longer need to obtain an accountant’s report; and, rigid restrictions on the format of the report (where one is needed) have been removed to allow the reporting accountant to exercise their professional judgement and concentrate on risks to client money.