News release

Lifetime licences for sole practitioners

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is moving to treating sole practitioner firms like all other practices, reducing the regulatory burden on them.

Solicitors who wish to operate as sole practitioners have to apply for their status to be recognised every year as part of the renewals process. Other firms only have to be authorised once—receiving "lifetime licences”.

The SRA is now working towards introduction of a consistent approach and remove the need for sole practitioners to renew their status annually. A policy statement setting out this aim has been published.

The matter was first examined in 2010 through an SRA consultation. All those who responded to the consultation were broadly in favour of the move, but other matters required the SRA's attention at the time.

If the change goes ahead, sole practitioners would not need to have the "sole solicitor endorsement" condition added to their practising certificate. They would still need to apply for a PC, as all solicitors do, so removing the need to apply for the condition would not increase any risks.

Agnieszka Scott, SRA Director of Policy, said: "Sole practitioners currently have to go through an additional administrative exercise each year that other firms do not. By removing this process, it reduces the regulatory burden by saving solicitors and the SRA time.

"Sole practitioners still need to have a PC, so there are no actual protections added by this piece of bureaucracy. We made a commitment in 2012 to remove unnecessary processes where we could, and this would be another step towards reducing any regulatory burden."

View policy statement (PDF 4 pages, 74K)

The SRA will now await the results of an upcoming Legal Services Board's consultation on the same issue. Anyone with views on the policy statement can email policy.

Sole practitioner firms make up 28 per cent (2.967) of all solicitor practices (10,554) in England and Wales according to latest figures.

 
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