Version 2 of the Handbook was published on 23 December 2011, and was superseded by Version 3 on 18 April 2012. For more information, click "History" above.
Consumer interests and the general public interest are the key justifications for any regulatory scheme. Users of legal services are, therefore, the focus of the Solicitors Regulation Authority's (SRA's) regulatory framework.
This Handbook sets out the standards and requirements which we expect our regulated community to achieve and observe, for the benefit of the clients they serve and in the general public interest. Our approach to regulation (i.e. authorisation, supervision and enforcement) is outcomes-focused and risk-based so that clients receive services in a manner which best suits their own particular needs, and depending on how services are provided (e.g. whether in-house or through private practice).
Our Handbook brings together the key regulatory elements in the following sections:
Principles - these are the ten Principles which are mandatory and apply to all those we regulate and to all aspects of practice. They define the fundamental ethical and professional standards that we expect of all firms (including owners who may not be lawyers) and individuals when providing legal services. In some circumstances they apply outside practice.
Code of Conduct ("the Code") - this section contains the "Outcomes" we require which, when achieved, benefit users of legal services and the public at large. These Outcomes are mandatory and, when achieved, will help ensure compliance with the Principles in the particular contexts covered by the various chapters in the Code. We recognise that these mandatory Outcomes may be achieved in a variety of ways depending on the particular circumstances, and we have supplemented the mandatory Outcomes with non-mandatory "Indicative Behaviours" to aid compliance. The Indicative Behaviours which we set out are not exhaustive: the Outcomes can be achieved in other ways. We encourage firms to consider how they can best achieve the Outcomes taking into account the nature of the firm, the particular circumstances and, crucially, the needs of their particular clients.
SRA Code of Conduct
Accounts - this section contains the SRA Accounts Rules - requirements aimed at protecting client money.
SRA Accounts Rules
Authorisation and Practising Requirements - this section includes key requirements for the training and admission for individuals intending to become solicitors; exercising higher rights of audience; for individuals and firms setting up in practice and for the holding certain roles in a practice.
SRA Practice Framework Rules
SRA Authorisation Rules for Legal Services Bodies and Licensable Bodies
(note: the Authorisation Rules will come into force in accordance with the timetable for the SRA to become a licensing authority for alternative business structures)
SRA Practising Regulations
SRA Recognised Bodies Regulations
Solicitors Keeping of the Roll Regulations
SRA Training Regulations:
Training Regulations - Part 1 - Qualification Regulations
Training Regulations - Part 2 - Training Provider Regulations
Training Regulations - Part 3 - CPD Regulations
SRA Admission Regulations
SRA Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme Regulations
SRA Higher Rights of Audience Regulations
SRA Suitability Test
Client Protection - this section contains key elements for the financial protection of clients.
SRA Indemnity Insurance Rules
SRA Indemnity (Enactment) Rules
SRA Compensation Fund Rules
SRA Intervention Powers (Statutory Trust) Rules
Discipline and Costs Recovery - this section contains provisions upon which our disciplinary and costs recovery powers are based.
SRA Disciplinary Procedure Rules
SRA Cost of Investigations Regulations
Specialist Services - this section contains provisions which are only applicable when certain services are being provided to clients.
SRA Property Selling Rules
SRA Financial Services (Scope) Rules
SRA Financial Services (Conduct of Business) Rules
SRA European Cross-border Practice Rules
Glossary - The Glossary (to be published in due course) will comprise all the terms used throughout the Handbook and set out their definitions. It will be central to all the rules and regulations within the Handbook. When we publish the Glossary, we will have removed all the individual interpretation clauses which currently appear within these rules and regulations.
Non-mandatory guidance and notes appear, as appropriate, throughout the Handbook as an aid to compliance.
Our approach to regulation has two elements: firm-based requirements and individual requirements. It focuses on the practices of regulated entities as well as the conduct and competence of regulated individuals. This approach allows us to take regulatory action against firms or individuals, or both, in appropriate cases. This could include action against anyone in the firm including non-lawyer owners, managers and employees. We exercise our regulatory powers in a proportionate manner, focusing on risk and outcomes for clients.
Firms will need to ensure that all employees (even if non-qualified and non-fee earners) receive appropriate training on the requirements in the Handbook, but only to the extent necessary for the role they undertake in the firm. For example, all staff will need to understand that they should keep clients' affairs confidential and behave with integrity; however it is likely that only those in fee-earning roles need be aware of the procedures required for checking for conflicts of interests and giving undertakings.
Although firms now have greater freedom in the way they offer services (e.g. outsourcing certain functions), they may not abrogate responsibility for compliance with regulatory requirements.
We are confident that the contents of this Handbook, coupled with our modern, outcomes-focused, risk-based approach to authorisation, supervision and effective enforcement will:
benefit the public interest;
support the rule of law;
improve access to justice;
benefit consumers' interests;
encourage an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession;
increase understanding of legal rights and duties; and
promote adherence to the professional principles set out in the Legal Services Act 2007.
The Handbook will, therefore, support not only consumers of legal services, but will also support the independence of the legal profession and its unique role in safeguarding the legal rights of those it serves.
These regulatory objectives can only be achieved if we and our regulated community work together in a spirit of mutual trust for the benefit of clients and the ultimate public interest.