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Changes to SRA Handbook approved

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has had changes to its Handbook approved by the Legal Services Board (LSB).

Edition 3 of the Handbook has gone live following agreement by the LSB to the latest alterations. The enhancements were recommended by the SRA Board following its meeting at the end of February.

Further editions of the Handbook have been necessary for a number of reasons. These included technical matters, such as some matters out for consultation and issues arising from the delayed designation of the SRA as a licensing authority for Alternative Business Structures (ABSs).

The SRA also wanted to review rules working in the new outcomes-focused regime, and hindsight has allowed the Authority to make a number of minor amendments that ensure they work in practice and accurately reflect the Legal Services Act (LSA).

David Hackett, SRA Regulatory Policy Manager, said: "In an ideal world, further editions would not have been necessary so soon after the 2011 Handbook came into force. However, in reality these amendments have been largely unavoidable given the way we've had to develop the Handbook in the context of our licensing authority application.

"Our intention in future is to limit editions of the Handbook to two per year."

One of the key changes for Edition 3 is the implementation of the SRA Handbook Glossary. The glossary contains all terms used throughout the Handbook which are shown in italics, and sets out their definitions. This will allow online users simply to 'click' on an italicised word to view the glossary definition.

Other amendments include clarification on conflict of interest matters overseas (where if compliance with the Code would result in a breach of local law or regulation, the outcomes can be disregarded to the extent necessary to comply with the local law or regulation) and Rule 53 on Transitional provisions has been deleted.

In the Authorisation Rules, some amendments have made rules clearer and ensure they accurately reflect the LSA. In particular, the Practice Framework Rules have been amended so solicitor involvement in a body owning a licensed body does not automatically mean the solicitor is "practising" in that body. And Rule 8.6 has been amended to ensure licensed bodies are specifically authorised by the SRA to provide immigration advice services under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

There are also amendments that deal with SRA Practising Regulations to mirror existing provisions in the Authorisation Rules such as the requirement to appoint a Compliance Officer for Legal Practice and a Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration. This is necessary because the SRA Practising Regulations continue to apply to the recognition of sole practitioners, so that as far as possible the same standards of the regulation apply to the different types of firm the SRA regulates.

The current Handbook was published online in October 2011 and it underpins the SRA's introduction of outcomes-focused regulation. The web version has been designed to be as easy to use as possible, and includes advanced search options that allow specific sections to be looked at, a quick guide to the Handbook itself and the ability to print only those sections that are needed, rather than all 500+ pages.

The online version also has a "history of" facility, so users can compare the third edition to previous copies of the Handbook.

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