The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Standards and Regulations replace the SRA Handbook from 25 November 2019.
There have been changes to the:
- Code of Conduct 2011
- Accounts Rules 2011
The new rules are shorter and less prescriptive. The SRA believes that this will offer solicitors greater flexibility. However, as a result solicitors will need to use greater professional judgement to ensure compliance to the SRA.
The Standards and Regulations are underpinned by the SRA’s enforcement strategy and you have a duty to report serious concerns or breaches of the Codes of Conduct promptly.
Under the Standards and Regulations there are seven Principles instead of 10.
The Principles apply to individuals and firms. Solicitors must act:
- in a way that upholds the constitutional principle of the rule of law, and the proper administration of justice
- in a way that upholds public trust and confidence in the solicitors' profession and in legal services provided by authorised persons
- with independence
- with honesty
- with integrity
- in a way that encourages equality, diversity and inclusion
- in the best interests of each client
Under the Standards and Regulations there are two Codes of Conduct:
- a Code of Conduct for Solicitors, Registered European Lawyers and Registered Foreign Lawyers
- a Code of Conduct for Firms
These Codes of Conduct give you a framework for ethical and competent practice whatever your role, the organisation you work for or the environment you work in.
The Accounts Rules are shorter, less prescriptive and trust you to act in your client’s best interests.
Before the new Rules come into effect on 25 November 2019, you need to:
- make any changes to processes and controls to comply with the 2019 rules
- document your policies in areas that are not covered by the new rules
- undertake appropriate training for fee earners, COFA and finance team members
The SRA has created videos and guidance to help you get ready for the changes.
If you’re an in-house solicitor, the new rules could offer you more flexibility in how you work. For example:
- it will be easier for you to do pro bono work
- you'll be able to offer non-reserved legal services to third parties outside the organisation you work for
The SRA has created specific guidance for solicitors working in the not-for-profit sector. It will help you understand how the Standards and Regulations apply to that sector.
Under the Standards and Regulations you’ll be able to work in new ways. For example, you could be an SRA-regulated:
- solicitor in an unregulated entity – for example an accountancy firm that also offers legal services to clients
- freelance solicitor who can provide reserved services – for example probate or notarial activities
- freelance solicitor who only offers non-reserved services
If you decide to work in one of these ways, you should make sure you understand:
- the different types of services you can offer
- the requirements for you to work in this way – for example, what insurance you might need
- what you need to tell clients – for example, being clear about the services you can provide and any possible limitations or risks
- what your employer needs to know – for example, making sure your work is included in its insurance policy, since it’s vicariously liable for your actions
Find out more about different ways of working under the Standards and Regulations.
The SRA has created guidance for solicitors thinking about working outside a regulated law firm, to help them adapt to the Standards and Regulations.
Read our practice note on solicitors offering legal services to the public from unregulated entities
You have a duty to report serious concerns or breaches of the Codes of Conduct promptly.
If you’re an individual solicitor, or registered European or foreign lawyer, you should tell your firm’s compliance officer for legal practice (COLP) about your concerns, as appropriate. The COLP will then make a professional judgement on whether to report your concerns to the SRA.
However, if you think a report should be made to the SRA but you’re not satisfied the COLP will take the same view, you should make the report yourself.
You can find more information about when to report in section 1.2 Reporting Concerns in the SRA enforcement strategy.
For advice on ethical issues, read the SRA’s online ethics guidance or call the SRA’s professional ethics helpline on 0370 606 2577.
You’ll find resources, including videos and ethical scenarios, on our Ethics page.
You can also contact our Practice Advice Service on 020 7320 5675.
The SRA can handle reported breaches in different ways.
If the breach is minor and unlikely to be repeated, the SRA will not take action.
In more serious cases, it will open an investigation. But even when an investigation is opened, there may not be any sanction. For example, an investigation could be closed with advice to the firm, which may include a warning about future sanctions if the breach is repeated.
- a fine
- restrictions to prevent a firm carrying out certain work
- imposing conditions on your practising certificate
- striking you off the roll of solicitors
If firms cooperate with the process, the SRA may be more likely to resolve the issue by supporting them through guidance, supervision and monitoring.
How to prepare for the changes
- read the new Standards and Regulations – you can also download a copy
- think about any changes you need to make to how you work
- get agreement from your firm’s decision makers if changes are needed
- review and update your compliance documentation to reflect the language of the Standards and Regulations
- train your staff
- build in review periods to monitor your initial response
Freelance solicitors - a focus on the freelance solicitors' model, a new way of working that did not previously exist for solicitors
Solicitors offering legal services to the public from unregulated entities – outlines the regulatory requirements for solicitors who work, or are considering working, in this environment
We're running seminars, roadshows, roundtables and conferences around the country throughout 2019 and into 2020
Podcasts with Pearl – free, short podcasts that keep you up to date on SRA and other compliance changes
Webinars and e-learning
Risk and Compliance Service
Our subscription-based Risk and Compliance Service will keep you informed and help you meet your regulatory obligations.
Blogs and magazines
We'll keep you up to date through:
- our blog
- the Law Society Gazette
- Legal Compliance magazine - quarterly magazine focusing on the issues that matter to risk and compliance practitioners
- Managing for Success - quarterly magazine covering practice management issues
- PS Magazine - a focus on the issues that matter in private client practice, published five times a year