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Market flexibility must not be at expense of consumer protections

7 December 2017

Changes to the rulebook governing solicitors could put consumers at risk and undermine trust in legal services, the Law Society of England and Wales said today as it urged the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to have an 11th hour change of heart.

Law Society of England and Wales president Joe Egan said: "The SRA is ploughing ahead with proposed changes to its handbook that would see different solicitors subject to different regulations depending on where they practise.

“People hire solicitors when they are facing some very stressful situations such as marriage breakdown or bereavement. It will heap additional pressure if they have to verify the regulatory arrangements for their solicitor before they instruct them.

Joe Egan added: "A new tier of solicitors, working in unregulated outfits, wouldn't have to have the same insurance, wouldn't pay into the solicitors’ compensation fund and wouldn't inevitably afford their clients legal professional privilege – which guarantees communications between client and solicitor are confidential.

"Removal of the rules which prevent solicitors establishing their own firms immediately after they qualify could leave both clients and newly qualified solicitors without appropriate support.

“This consultation represents an opportunity for the SRA to make the handbook clearer and simpler, by engaging directly with practitioners who use it. Instead the proposals have focused on creating flexible business models. Flexibility for solicitors should not come at the expense of client protections.

“I urge all those with an interest in a legal system that protects everyone who uses it to respond to the SRA’s consultation.”

Notes to editors

The SRA’s consultation on change to its handbook began on 27 September and ends on 20 December. Read our submission.

The Law Society is urging all interested parties to respond.

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Ben Davies | +44 (0)20 7316 5592