Changes to the SRA handbook
The SRA is introducing a new handbook which includes the new code of conduct that will come into effect at some point in 2019, although the exact date still remains unconfirmed.
In 2011, the launch of the SRA handbook welcomed some changes that altered the legal landscape with outcomes focused, risk-based regulation and the introduction of compliance officers.
However, in the new 2019 handbook the emphasis on outcomes focused regulation will disappear. Instead, law firms will be asked to comply with the Standard of Professional Conduct.
Why the change?
The SRA has recognised that the 2011 handbook is too long and unnecessarily complex. Therefore, by reducing the number of rules from 52 to 13, the handbook should be more user-friendly and easier to follow.
What is changing?
The new SRA handbook will see the number of SRA principles reduced as some of these will now be covered under the new Codes of Conduct. These principles are as follows:
- provide a proper standard of service to your clients;
- comply with your legal and regulatory obligations and deal with your regulators and ombudsman in an open, timely and co-operative manner;
- run your business or carry out your role in the business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles;
- protect client money and assets.
The New Codes of Conduct
The handbook that will be launched this year will consist of two Codes of Conduct: The Code of Conduct for solicitors and the Code of Conduct for firms. The purpose of having these new Codes is to move away from prescriptive rules to allow for greater flexibility in applying the core standards.
The Accounts Rules book will also be simplified but will still focus on the requirement to adhere to the rules regarding the operation of a client account, dealing with client money and paying interest.
The 2019 handbook will include the SRA Application Notice review and Appeal Rules. This will be a combination of general provisions relating to applications to and notices from the SRA condensed into one section.
The SRA Transparency rules will also be outlined. These rules, that came into effect in December 2018, require regulated law firms to publish price and service information on their websites.
Another new rule that is included in the handbook now allows self-employed solicitors to provide reserved legal services on a freelance basis.
Law firms are expected to transition to the new handbook seamlessly so it is advised by the SRA that firms should be preparing for this change now in order to avoid disruption.
Paul Phillip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “We have worked closely with the profession and the public to develop our proposals over the last four years, engaging with more than 35,000 people. I am pleased there was widespread support for our overall approach and that we received so much useful feedback.”
“We are now ready to make the changes that are needed to modernise both our regulations and the legal market. Our reforms focus on what matters: the high professional standards that offer real public protection rather than unnecessary bureaucracy that generates costs, constrains firms and hinders access to legal services. We believe that the changes will make it easier for firms and solicitors to do business and to meet the needs of those who need their services”.
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