News release

SRA's regulatory approach will aid pro bono

The Solicitors Regulation Authority's programme of regulatory reform will aid pro bono work in the legal sector, the head of the SRA has said.

Speaking on the first day of National Pro Bono Week, SRA Chief Executive, Paul Philip, said that the increasing flexibility offered by its regulatory regime should make it easier for solicitors to carry out pro bono work. The SRA's regulations and requirements on a solicitor to meet their professional obligations and act with integrity are in place, irrespective of whether work is paid or not.

But some in-house solicitors have expressed uncertainty about the requirements on them when carrying out voluntary work. In response, the SRA is publishing new guidance to help clarify the decisions solicitors have to make when considering pro bono engagements. But the SRA has stressed that simplicity, not further regulation, is the answer to questions around solicitors carrying out pro bono.

Paul Philip said: "The purpose of regulation is to uphold professional principles and protect those people who need it. Pro bono work clearly fits well with that approach and we support solicitors' appetite to do more." "We are committed to simplifying what we do and how we do it. Increasingly that will mean moving away from detailed and prescriptive rules in favour of making it easier for the profession to deliver services."

"That is a progressive, proportionate and effective way to regulate. And one of the benefits will be to empower those who want to undertake voluntary work to get on with doing so."

 

Note to editors

1. The Legal Services Act 2007 makes no distinction between whether or not a service is provided for a profit. Solicitors doing pro bono work are subject to the same restrictions as when they are doing reserved legal activities for a fee. Equally, they are also subject to the principles within the Code of Conduct – including the duty to act in the best interests of each client and to provide a proper standard of service. These principles apply at all times - pro bono or fee paying work, reserved or non-reserved. Within an SRA regulated firm, work is likely to be carried out under the banner of the firm and therefore treated in the same way (from a regulatory perspective) as fee paying work - including coverage by their professional indemnity insurance (PII).

2. For solicitors working in-house, the legislation is quite clear that where reserved legal activities are provided to the public (or a section of the public) as part of the employers business, the employer also needs to be authorised and therefore subject to SRA regulation. In-house solicitors are therefore permitted to carry on reserved legal activities to the public on a pro bono basis if the work is covered by professional indemnity insurance and doing so is not part of the employer’s business.

3. The SRA is the independent regulator of solicitors and law firms in England and Wales, protecting consumers and supporting the rule of law and the administration of justice. The SRA does this by overseeing all education and training requirements necessary to practise as a solicitor, licensing individuals and firms to practise, setting the standards of the profession and regulating and enforcing compliance against these standards. Further information is available at www.sra.org.uk

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