News

What you need to know about Standards and Regulations

At the end of November, we launched our new Standards and Regulations, which replaced the SRA Handbook 2011. These new rules are the culmination of four years of development work, which has seen us consult widely with the profession and public alike, with more than 35,000 providing direct input.

To help you both comply with the new rules and understand the opportunities they bring, we have published a range support materials, including webinars, guidance and videos at www.sra.org.uk/newregs. Nearly 90,000 of you have already visited this page since it was launched in September.

Content added most recently covers areas such as conflicts of interest, reporting concerns and behaving with integrity.

The Standards and Regulations

Our Standards and Regulations are simpler and far shorter than the previous SRA Handbook and focus a lot more clearly on what really matters - high professional standards and protecting the public and its money. The reforms put more trust in your professional judgment, getting rid of lots of outdated prescriptive rules and giving you more flexibility over how you work.

The aim is to help more people get the opportunity to access the expert legal help a solicitor brings - currently only one in ten people use a solicitor or barrister when they have a legal problem. 

Allowing solicitors to practise and offer public services from beyond traditional law firms, for example from within non-regulated organisations such as accountants or estate agents, or as SRA-regulated freelance solicitors, can only help to increase access. Not only giving the public choice and better service, but freeing solicitors up to compete with non-regulated legal service suppliers in new ways.

Key elements of the reforms include:

  • Separate codes for firms and solicitors: This gives greater clarity on the differing roles and obligations of individuals and their employer. With more than a fifth of solicitors working outside law firms, for example in-house, it also provides a code which is more directly relevant to such solicitors.
  • New enforcement strategy: The strategy provides clarity on how we decide whether to act in a given case, and what factors we consider in deciding the seriousness of any misconduct and the action to take.
  • Reporting Concerns: We have published new guidance explaining the duties of every solicitor to report any concerns they may have about potential misconduct. This includes both what type of issues needs reporting and when.
  • The Solicitors Register: The Register is now live and provides the public with key information on all SRA regulated solicitors and firms, including their name, where they work and links to any disciplinary outcomes.
  • The SRA clickable logo: All regulated law firms who have a website are now required to display the SRA’s clickable logo. Previously, while it was a voluntary requirement, more than half of firms were already using the logo.

The impact of these changes, both in terms of opening up public access and creating opportunity within the profession will need long term monitoring.

That is why we have commissioned economic consultancy Economic Insight to develop a framework for evaluating the reforms. This will include assessing the effect of the new Standards and Regulations, and Transparency Rules, on the public, profession and wider legal sector.

Reports on progress will be conducted after one, three and five years, so watch this space for future updates on what we find.