What are the strategic implications of the Looking to the Future revisions to the New SRA Handbook for you and your firm?
The SRA decided to revisit the SRA Handbook in 2016, six years on from the last major shake-up. The drive to open-up the market was at the forefront of this decision and whilst the introduction of Alternative Business Structures (ABS) and Outcomes Focused Regulation (OFR) has transformed some individual firms and legal services groups, it has not been the ‘big bang’ many anticipated.
Through the further relaxation of rules, the SRA hope to promote business flexibility. In some ways this approach is more radical than the introduction of ABS and could well see the complete re-structure of legal services, the legal services market, and the regulators.
Looking to the Future means solicitors will be able to practice in non-regulated businesses, while still carrying the title solicitor, provided they are not conducting reserved work.
Moving forwards, two new draft codes contained within the SRA Handbook (one for the individual, and one for firms), will sit alongside reformed (and individually focused) principles, and – of course –the new Competence Statement, which underpins the professional ability of the individual.
Rather than looking at the detail of the new SRA Handbook, this strategy-based course is aimed at those wanting to understand and potentially take advantage of the changes proposed; Firms should consider carefully whether they are likely to want to hive off part of their firm conducting non-reserved work or integrate with businesses around them. The new proposals will undoubtedly stimulate competition, but that competition may come from outside the sector.
Please note the consultations have now closed and the draft Standards and Regulations are available at www.sra.org.uk.
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