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SRA spells out key authorisation application criteria for firms at event in Birmingham

Delegates attending an event in Birmingham today (Tuesday 4 June), aimed at prospective firms seeking authorisation from the SRA will learn how to ensure their application runs as smoothly as possible.

The event—Getting authorised by the SRA: a step-by-step guide—featured a keynote by SRA Executive Director Samantha Barrass in which she explained about the risk-based approach being taken by the dedicated Firm-based Authorisation Unit which was set up earlier this year. Under this arrangement, Ms Barrass pointed out all applications for authorisation of recognised bodies, sole practitioners and alternative business structures (ABSs) are dealt with by a dedicated team to ensure a more streamlined and tailored approach depending on the level of risk posed by the application.

Ms Barrass outlined the key outcomes which prospective firms would be expected to show they could meet including:

  • Owners and managers of law firms are fit and proper people
  • firms understand the key risks to the delivery of ethical and competent legal services posed by their business models and can manage those risks
  • firms will comply with the SRA's regulatory requirements, including co-operating with us, particularly in difficult times

Samantha Barrass said: "We often get asked about the sort of business models we like and those we don't like, what are acceptable structures and which are not. These are actually the wrong questions to be asking and an impossible one for us to answer.

"Our focus and concern is not on the model that is being proposed, although some are clearly riskier than others, but the ability of the owners and managers to manage the risks. We could authorise one business model quite confidently and reject an identical looking one where we don't have confidence that the risks are being managed adequately."

Three breakout sessions led by senior staff within the authorisation team focused on key aspects of the SRA's main concerns when looking at applications, including setting up a new firm with a view to authorisation; how risk fits into the authorisation process, and what the SRA expects from role holders.

Further information and guidance on applying for authorisation can be found here

More on the guidance

The SRA is holding a webinar on firm-based authorisation on 18 June, details of which can be found here:

More on the webinar

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