Introduction to SRA Overseas Rules 2013

Version 18 of the Handbook was published on 1 November 2016. For more information, please click "History" above.

Introduction to the Overseas Rules

This section of the Handbook contains the SRA Overseas Rules.

Although the SRA primarily regulates the provision of legal services by solicitors, firms and other authorised persons practising in England and Wales, it also needs to provide a regulatory framework for authorised persons and bodies established overseas in order to take account of the regulatory risk they pose in England and Wales. This must be proportionate, reflecting the different level and type of risks posed to the SRA's regulatory objectives by practising overseas, as well as the existence, in many jurisdictions, of local regulatory requirements.

These rules apply to regulated individuals practising overseas and to responsible authorised bodies. Subject to Rule 2 of these rules, the SRA Code of Conduct does not apply to regulated individuals and authorised bodies practising overseas since its requirements are, in many cases, not relevant to, or may have a disproportionate impact, on them.

These rules are the starting point for the conduct of SRA regulated individuals and authorised bodies providing legal services outside England and Wales. They apply to those regulated individuals who are established in practice overseas and those authorised bodies or recognised sole practitioners with responsibility for or control over, bodies or branch offices overseas. They do not apply to those engaged in temporary practice overseas or authorised bodies established overseas to whom the Principles and relevant sections of the SRA Code of Conduct and the SRA Handbook apply.

The Overseas Principles are modified from the general SRA Principles, in order to take account of the different legal, regulatory and cultural context of practice in other jurisdictions, which may require different standards of conduct to those required in England and Wales. There is no intention to imply a lower standard of general behaviour; regulated individuals practising overseas and responsible authorised bodies are therefore required to ensure that they, or those for whom they are responsible, under these rules, behave in a way which meets both the SRA's Overseas Rules and its character and suitability requirements. For guidance on the SRA's approach to factors relevant to the assessment of an individual's suitability see the SRA Suitability Test.

Regulators in many other jurisdictions rely on certificates of good standing granted by the SRA to regulated individuals and authorised businesses who wish to practise overseas and, in many cases, they will also expect and require that the SRA's regulatory oversight will continue to operate alongside the local regulatory regime. Nonetheless, applicable law and local regulation should prevail in circumstances in which compliance with the Overseas Principles would create difficulties, with the exception of principle 6 which must be observed at all times, even if to do so would result in a breach of local law or regulation.

In addition to the obligations of those regulated individuals practising overseas, the SRA also requires that a recognised sole practitioner or authorised body in England and Wales will identify, monitor and manage risks arising from its overseas practices and connected practices to ensure they do not undermine its financial viability, or its ability to fulfil its compliance and regulatory obligations, its reputation and that of SRA regulation and the legal profession of England and Wales in general. These obligations are also present in the domestic SRA Code of Conduct.

A failure to meet these obligations may result in the SRA taking regulatory action against a regulated individual or an authorised body and its managers. Such action may include limiting, or removing, the right to practise as an authorised body or individual regulated by the SRA.