Issue 83 - August 2020
Welcome to SRA Update Issue 83.
It’s been a busy time so it’s a busy issue. We have of course set fee levels for the coming practising year, and the fees calculator is now available for you to plan your budget. There’s information here too on changes to the Compensation Fund, further detail on SQE, and up to date warnings about cybercrime. We are also looking for your input into our business planning for next year. Finally, best wishes for a really good break to everyone who is taking some holiday this August.
Subject to confirmation by the Legal Services Board (LSB), individual practising fee levels will remain at the same level for the fourth year running. This means a practising certificate will cost £278 in 2020/21. Firm fees can now also be predicted using this year’s fees calculator, which is now live.
There is still time for you to have your say on our proposed Business Plan for 2020/21. The plan sets out our key areas of work and focus for 2020/21 and builds on our already published Corporate Strategy. To help you better understand our proposals and explain how you can have your say on them, we will be staging a dedicated webinar on 11 August.
Further details relating to the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) – which is set to be introduced in September 2021 and aims to make sure all would-be solicitors meet and are tested against the same high standards - have been announced. This includes details on costs, revised transitional arrangements and further work undertaken to ensure the exam supports diversity and is fully accessible.
Our Board has agreed to changes to our compensation fund rules that should strike the right balance between protecting clients from solicitor wrong-doing and making the fund sustainable in the future.
We have confirmed that we will be introducing measures to ensure the standards of advocacy carried out by solicitors remain high. We consulted on these measures at the end of last year and our Board, taking in feedback we received, decided on the way forward at its meeting in July. You can find out more about what we are doing here.
If you run a small or medium-sized law firm, we are giving you the chance to get free mentoring and support to help you develop your approaches to equality, diversity and inclusion. Including monthly 1-2-1 coaching from some of the biggest law firms in the country the scheme is open to anyone who wants to realise the business benefits of improving any aspect of their work in these areas.
Dealing with complaints is one of a range of indicators of quality customer service, which helps clients make informed decisions when choosing legal services. Our latest report on how the profession is dealing with complaints made to firms is now available.
We have issued new guidance about health issues and medical evidence. It will help those we are investigating understand the approach we take to health issues when they are raised with us and the medical evidence which we might ask for.
A new report by Emsisoft claims British firms were hit by 5,000 ransomware attacks last year, paying out £200m to free themselves. Read our guide on how you and your employees can stay cybersafe while working remotely.
We have added additional guidance to our Your Health, Your Career pages in light of the coronavirus lockdown. These pages offer advice on how to make sure you stay well while addressing the many varied challenges of work.
Join our virtual event on 3 September where we will discuss the journey of the Gender Recognition Act and issues/challenges that still need to be overcome. Chaired by SRA Board member Barry Matthews the event will feature Rachel Reese and Emma Cusdin from Global Butterflies.
You can find all about the latest SQE news in the latest issue of our monthly newsletter, SQE Update. This month’s bulletin covers the publication of the final SQE2 Assessment Specification, and a blog by our Director of Education and Training, Julie Brannan.
As part of our Business Plan consultation we also want your views on the principles which will underpin how our Board decided on the SRA Compensation Fund annual contributions.
Our Board has decided to continue the Solicitors Indemnity Fund, which provides post six-year run-off cover for closed firms, for a further 12 months. In 2016, it was agreed that the fund would close on 30 September 2020, but the hardening insurance market means we have given firms and the profession longer to work with insurers to put suitable products in place for those who may want to buy this voluntary extra cover.
Welcome to the Compliance News section of SRA Update Issue 83.
This issue includes an update on making sure your firm has the right status, further information on staying compliant during the lockdown, how our transparency requirements are all the more important at the moment and links to our updated resources supporting firms that may be considering closing down.
If your firm is experiencing financial difficulties, or you are considering winding it down, read our new guidance on how the SRA is here to help in such circumstances. Explaining that we are here first and foremost to support firms in such difficulties the guidance illustrates how by you talking to us as early as possible we can help you achieve better outcomes for both yourself and your clients.
The legal services market is a fast-moving sector and the structure of law firms is often changing on a regular basis. This could include adding non-lawyer individuals to the ownership structure, which is likely to require a change in regulated status, and approval as an alternative business structure (ABS). Our guidance on authorisation has more information, including what this change means for a firm’s status.
While the Government continues to ease the restrictions caused by the pandemic, many of you will still be working in new and sometimes unfamiliar ways. Visit our dedicated Covid-19 pages for guidance and support on how to effectively run your day-to-day business during lockdown while still complying with our regulatory requirements.
The continuing lockdown means the public are increasingly shopping online while firms are potentially looking for as much business as possible, so it has never been more important that you are complying with our transparency rules.
At this time of year, we would normally be telling you about this year’s Compliance Conference, currently scheduled for October. We are currently looking at our options for this hugely popular event and will of course update you with our plans when they are finalised. If you missed last year’s conference, you can catch up on what happened here.
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