News release

SRA helps law firms provide more services to consumers

The Solicitors Regulation Authority is helping law firms that want to expand their business beyond traditional legal services by publishing new guidance on the Separate Business Rule.

From November, the SRA will change its rules to make it easier for solicitor-owned firms to be involved in separate businesses that offer a range of professional services. This would help them compete with other professional firms that have created similar "multi-disciplinary practices".

Crispin Passmore, Executive Director for Policy, said: "The legal services market is big business and more and more firms providing legal services are looking to innovate, to create different ways of delivering what consumers want. We want to support this innovation, so we have amended the rules to create a level playing field, allowing law firms to compete with other companies offering these ‘one-stop shops'.

"We are now looking into what more we should do to give solicitors even more flexibility in future. We have a responsibility to encourage a competitive, vibrant legal sector which ultimately increases choice for consumers."

The guidance includes advice around referrals, ensuring clients know which areas of work are covered by regulation and which are not, and making sure they can make informed choices about the services available. The guidance also reminds solicitors of the rules on practising and the basic principles of acting with integrity and not allowing their independence to be compromised.

The guidance can be found here:

Go to the guidance

 

Note to editors

The decision to amend the SBR was made by the SRA Board on 4 June and subsequently approved by the Legal Services Board. Liberalisation of the legal market means other types of businesses are already allowed to own law firms and deliver innovative services.

By changing the rule, all SRA regulated law firms can own separate businesses, allowing them to compete on a level playing field with alternative business structures (ABSs) - firms part-owned by non-lawyers. Three of the big four accountancy firms in the UK have law firms created in this way.

As part of the same package of reforms, the rules on what activities can be undertaken within solicitors firms have been relaxed, making it easier for those firms to create one-stop shops for professional services.

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