There is a bizarre story on Legal Futures today about the SRA seeking information about an interest in a law firm held in the name of a baby.
The tenor of the article that the SRA has somehow overstepped the mark does not make any sense to me.
First, there is the pendantic lawyerly point that it is entirely possible that a case could arise where the beneficial interest held in the name of a child is controlled by persons who raise concerns. There is therefore no automatic point of principle that the SRA should make no enquiries if an interest is held by a child.
Second, it has been recognised for sometime by those involved in legal services regulation that the requirements imposed on regulators by Schedule 13 of the Legal Services Act are not proportionate to the risk presented by external ownership. My experience has been that the SRA and other licensing authorities have been very constructive in interpreting their statutory obligations under Schedule 13 in a way that does not inhibit innovation.
There is clearly a debate to be had as to how the ownership provisions of Schedule 13 can be improved. That debate is more complex than blaming the SRA.
The lengths to which the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) goes to approve people involved in alternative business structures has been highlighted by the case of a six-month-old baby.