SRA Standards and Regulations: minor amendments – Law Society response
Since implementing the Standards and Regulations in 2019, the SRA has identified areas that are causing operational difficulties or practical difficulties for firms.
In some cases, the SRA says the original policy intention is not being met or the rules need clarification to achieve the intended outcome.
The SRA sought feedback on its proposals through its Standards and Regulations: minor amendments consultation.
We support most of the SRA’s proposals in principle, but do not support:
- amendment 1 – the proposal to restrict firms taking money for costs in advance of work being done and placing them in their business account
- amendment 4 – the proposal to remove the notification process to the SRA on pro bono work provided outside of a firm or organisation
We do not support amending rule 2.1(d) of the SRA Accounts Rules as it appears unnecessary in the absence of any evidence of problems arising under the existing rules.
It also appears to conflict with other aspects of the Accounts Rules as at present, particularly rule 2.3 (c) and rule 5.1(b).
Fixed costs provide greater certainty to clients that costs will be limited to the amount agreed with the firm and will not be exceeded even if more work is required than anticipated.
The proposed amendment would impact several firms that currently legitimately operate on a fixed-fee basis and pay anticipated fees into their business account with the client’s agreement. We imagine this is not what the SRA intended.
We also do not support the removal of the notification requirement to the SRA for solicitors providing pro bono services outside a firm or organisation.
The requirement to notify the SRA is not onerous and is an important safeguard to protect both the public and the individual solicitor.
Amendments 2, 3 and 5
We support the proposals in:
- amendment 2 – on reimbursements for money spent on behalf of the client
- amendment 3 – on operating a client’s own account
- amendment 5 – on administering oaths or statutory declarations outside of employment
However, our support is subject to further consideration or clarification by the SRA to ensure that the intended outcomes are achieved.
The consultation closed on 8 March 2023.
The SRA will consider responses to the consultation before deciding on next steps.