SRA Innovate

We are committed to helping current providers of legal services develop their businesses in new ways and to supporting new types of organisations who are thinking of delivering legal services for the first time.

We want to help firms to innovate, to work smarter and to offer clients affordable legal services.

If you have been thinking of a new way to serve your clients and run your organisation or have an idea but are not sure whether regulation could stop it getting off the ground, these pages are here to show how we can support you.

SRA Innovate is open to existing firms and new entrants, alternative business structures (ABS) and traditional law firms.

SRA Innovate events – Summer 2018

Are there new ways you could be offering services to clients? Want to discuss the latest ideas for innovation in the legal sector?

We believe marketplace innovation is important if the legal sector is to continue to grow and provide better access to legal services. This summer come to one of our SRA Innovate events in:

Join us to hear how we can help law firms innovate and the creative ways you can grow your business. Book your place now.

Do you have a new idea about delivering legal services?

We are already helping law firms to grow and run their businesses in creative ways.

This includes:

  • offering multi-disciplinary partnerships giving the public to access a “one-stop-shop” for legal and non-legal professional services
  • allowing specific rules to be waived for example to allow firms to introduce more streamlined legal service arrangements.
  • a dedicated guidance service to help firms deal with any regulatory barriers they think may be stopping them doing something new
  • a sense check to technology firms looking to develop new platforms for legal businesses and the users of legal services.

We have also created an Innovation Space which lets you explore new ways of running your business and introducing original ideas. This is a 'safe space' is for existing firms, as well as new entrants to the legal services market. It lets you test out ideas that are likely to benefit the public in a controlled way.

Here we can work collaboratively with innovators to make sure the right protections are included when creating new products and services. We believe this approach will encourage greater innovation.

How does the Innovation Space work?

Access to the Innovation Space is based on a set of criteria. They are intended to separate out what are the truly innovative from applications that could be helped under our existing policies and processes. Sometimes, just some guidance will be sufficient.

If you think the Innovation Space might work for you, a good place to start is to consider the following:

1. Does the application fit in with our aims?

We would expect any application to be consistent with the aims of our policy reforms, our regulatory objectives and in the public interest as well as legal services users.

2. Is it sufficiently different?

Can you show that the proposal will result in a significantly different way of delivering legal services?

3. Is there a need for access to the Innovation Space?

Can you show there is a genuine need to access the Innovation Space? Have you identified and established the need, including which regulatory tool or tools will be required?

4. Will consumers be adequately protected?

Are there sufficient safeguards to protect the users of legal services, including access to appropriate redress if needed? These can be developed on a case-by-case basis to make sure the protections are sufficient, but at the same time not unnecessarily burdensome for business.

5. Is the proposal developed enough to start?

Are you ready to start providing the innovative service? Can you identify measurable success criteria? Can you show that research has been carried out on the benefits of the innovation – including how any risks will be dealt with?


We will also expect the application to have a clear exit strategy, should it be decided from the outcome of any monitoring that in order to protect the public the services should be stopped.

Tell us your business idea and see if we can help make it become a reality. We will provide support for anyone wishing to use the Innovation Space. Contact our Professional Ethics Guidance team to explain your idea and then to discuss how we will progress your application.

SRA Innovate Educate

SRA Innovate Educate is committed to helping providers of legal education develop their professional legal education and training in new ways, and to supporting new types of providers who are thinking of offering legal education courses for the first time. Read more

Monitoring while in the Innovation Space

We will provide advice on any conditions and monitoring arrangements that we may require, and these will operate while services are provided in the Innovation Space.

As you are establishing yourself, we may require an informal ‘check in’ of how you are getting on. We will then need a more formal report later, including information on agreed measures that demonstrate the success of your innovation. We will need you to notify us of any significant issues that have occurred if they affect the running of your business. Also, any complaints or other measures of dissatisfaction.

Looking to the future and Special Bodies

We want to do more to allow greater flexibility for solicitors and freedom for firms to innovate, compete and grow. This will help improve access to quality services at affordable prices. Our consultation Looking to the future explores how we can provide a framework for all bodies delivering reserved legal services. This includes charities and not for profit organisations that are classed as "Special Bodies". Under transitional arrangements, these bodies are entitled to carry out reserved legal activities without being authorised to do so by a legal services regulator.

We want to collaborate with special bodies to develop an approach where if regulated by us in the future, we would only directly oversee the solicitor services that bodies provide.

We are also keen to speak to any that wish to explore being authorised and regulated by us now. This may be, for example, because they see benefits in being able to show that they uphold the same standards as other types of organisations entitled to deliver reserved legal activities to the public. Or to be ahead of the game should existing transitional arrangements be brought to an end at some point in the future. Our SRA Innovate work aims to support anyone who wishes to provide legal services in new ways to benefit the public.

We are open for business and, as the information on these pages show, we can offer a flexible approach to regulation that recognises the special circumstances of organisations operating successfully outside the for-profit sector.

Supporting new business models

We are now in a position where we can authorise new models efficiently and effectively:

  • Multi-disciplinary practices (MDPs) – Last year we reformed our regulation to make it simpler for MDPs to be licensed to provide legal services under SRA regulation. These measures ensure proportionate regulation where firms deliver a range of professional services under the oversight of a number of regulators. For more information, please see our MDP policy statement.
  • Separate business rule – In 2015, we made amendments to the separate business rule; the changes enable solicitors to offer other professional services. For more information, please see our guidance.

Resources

An open door to innovation, presentation slides (PDF 16 pages, 584K)

Innovation a risky business? presentation slides (PDF 14 pages, 522K)

All change - customers are the winners, Riverview Law (PDF 21 pages, 2MB)

Innovation case studies (PDF 8 pages, 137K)

Innovation and growth in legal services - a paper that describes what we are doing to support innovation and outlines plans we are making for more work. Please tell us what you think.

Get involved

Tell us about your ideas – We want to hear about your ideas for delivering legal services in new ways and about any barriers regulation may present. We want to hear from you if regulation has stopped you from operating in new and innovative ways.

Join a virtual reference group – Help us make sure that thinking about the way regulation affects innovation and growth in legal services is embedded in our operations and our regulatory reform programme.

Contact us

Contact our Professional Ethics Guidance team to discuss your ideas for innovation and growth.


Use www.sra.org.uk/innovate to link to this page.