The LSB continues its push to open up the legal services market to in-house lawyers. Though as @iaingmiller and I have pointed out previously in this blog, they are pushing at an open door, at least as far as the SRA is concerned, given the latter's recent statements to the effect that they will seek to amend the Practice Framework Rules so that in-house lawyers may hold themselves out as solicitors and sell non-reserved legal services to anyone without the need for their business to be a regulated entity.
There remains for me a significant unanswered question about how legal professional privilege will operate effectively in such circumstances (see the Prudential case etc.) but there is no doubt this is a potential revolution in legal business in England and Wales, heralding greater competition in certain sectors.
However it is hard to imagine how such a liberalisation of the market can happen without much greater scrutiny of in-house lawyers and how they operate by the SRA. Hitherto, in-house lawyers have barely featured in the disciplinary annals of the SRA; increasing commercial contact with the public or other businesses will likely change that position. General counsel will increasingly need to assure themselves that they are complying with the SRA Principles in all areas of the legal function, particularly Principles 7 and 8.
Legal Services Board Chief Executive, Richard Moriarty said: "The draft policy statement is, based on feedback we have received to date, and is aimed at reducing unnecessary regulatory restrictions on in-house lawyers. All the legal regulators should take a hard look at their rule books to make sure that any restrictions on in-house lawyers can be clearly justified and do not unnecessarily impede their ability to improve their services, innovate, or grow their business. This consultation represents an opportunity for anyone with an interest in this area to help shape the final policy statement and so we would welcome any feedback on the draft contained within the consultation."