Pro bono work and enforcement - our approach

Statement of our position regarding those working in-house or in private practice and who are also conducting voluntary work for a not-for-profit body or community-interest company

Concerns have been raised by LawWorks (the Solicitor Pro Bono Group) about restrictions on providing pro bono services through a not-for-profit body (NFPB) or community-interest company (CIC) imposed by our rules.

Specifically, Rules 1.1, 2.1 and 4 of the SRA Practice Framework Rules 2011 (PFRs) would normally apply. PFR 1.1 sets out the ways in which a solicitor can practise, including as an employee of a business or organisation, as a sole practitioner or within an authorised body.

We understand there is concern that a volunteering solicitor or a Registered European Lawyer (REL) must become an employee of the NFPB or CIC through which they are providing pro bono services, or become authorised as a sole practitioner in order to comply with Rule 1.1(e), 2.1(e) and Rule 4 of the PFRs. This is because Rule 1.1(c)(ii), (d)(ii) and 2.1(c)(ii), (d)(ii) are not wide enough to permit solicitors and RELs to provide pro bono services through an NFPB or CIC that is not their employer.

This statement is to give comfort to you if you are employed as a solicitor or an REL and want to conduct voluntary pro bono work for an NFPB or CIC outside of your normal practice without becoming an employee of the NFPB or CIC. We want to encourage those willing and able to carry out pro bono work to do so.

What you can do

If you are an individual solicitor with a current practising certificate or an REL and are either employed by an authorised body or are conducting in-house practice (as defined in the SRA Glossary 2011), we will not regard you as being in breach of the PFRs if you conduct work, whether or not it includes carrying on a reserved legal activity for persons other than your employer - including for members of the public  provided that:

  1. you do the work on a pro-bono basis and neither you nor your employer receive any remuneration in any form
  2. such work is delivered or conducted through an NFPB or a CIC that falls within section 23(2) of the Legal Services Act 2007 (LSA) and which is independent of your employer
  3. the recipient of the advice understands that the advice is provided by the NFPB or CIC and that you are conducting the work on behalf of that body;
  4. the work is covered by appropriate indemnity insurance
  5. the work you conduct is the responsibility of, and you are supervised by, the NFPB or CIC in the conduct of that work

We have previously issued guidance on when an employer needs to be authorised by an approved regulator because of section 15(4) of the LSA. This is not relevant if you are not carrying out reserved legal activities as part of the pro bono work on behalf of a separate NFPB or CIC.

New regulatory arrangements

The new regulatory arrangements proposed by us are simplified and Rules 1 to 4 of the PFRs have been replaced with a much simpler provision in Regulation 9 of the SRA Authorisation of Individuals Regulations. This regulation adds very few restrictions on the way in which you may provide both reserved and non-reserved legal services and limits this to those restrictions which apply under legislation, including in particular, section 15(4) of the LSA.

These new regulatory arrangements have been made by our Board and require the approval of the Legal Services Board before they can come into effect. Until the new arrangements are in place, our position remains as set out in this statement.