Big news in the world of solicitor regulation. The SRA has published its long awaited consultation on its new Handbook. The Code of Conduct has been reduced to six pages. Gone are outcomes and indicative behaviours. Although there is now a separate Code for firms.
Other proposed changes bring the SRA scheme into alignment with Section 15 of the Legal Services Act which sets the perimeter for regulated legal services. This will remove the restrictions on in house lawyers only acting for their employers save in certain circumstances. It is proposed that there will be no regulatory restrictions on solicitors providing legal services to anyone as long as they fall outside the reserved legal services that are regulated under the Legal Services Act. This new freedom will benefit in house teams and allow solicitors to work as solicitors in unregulated legal businesses as long as they do not provided reserved legal activities.
The SRA wants to open up opportunities for solicitors to freely deliver services outside of regulated firms. Currently there is an expanding legal services market providing everything from will writing to advice on social welfare, employment or tax. However, the current rules restrict where and how solicitors can work. The proposed changes would make it easier for solicitors, who are arguably best placed to provide quality services, to work in this expanding market. This could help push standards up while driving costs down. It could also help tackle the problem that many people and businesses still do not access the legal services they need. For example only 13 per cent of small businesses say that lawyers provide value for money.