News

Developing the next Handbook

We are changing our approach to regulation and simplifying our Handbook. We want to create a specific Code of Conduct for solicitors and a separate one for firms, making it clearer and easier to use. We want to keep the important COLP/COFA roles, and want to hear your views on how these changes might work in practice.

We announced in November that we are reviewing our approach to regulation through our Looking to the Future programme.

We want to deliver a modern approach to regulation that focuses on our core purpose of protecting the public and protecting the rule of law and administration of justice. This is part of our wider commitment to reducing the burdens of regulation by cutting unnecessary bureaucracy, saving firms money and supporting growth and innovation. Targeted, proportionate regulation is key to that.

The current SRA Code of Conduct is 30 pages long and is supported by another 400-plus pages of rules and regulations. That's 200 pages fewer than just two years ago, but it is still too much to expect anyone to remember it all.

The current Code of Conduct applies equally to individuals, firms, managers and employees. We want to make things clearer, so we plan to have a specific Code of Conduct for solicitors and a separate one for firms.

Specific changes we could make include supporting in house solicitors who want to do pro bono work. We could also allow solicitors to provide non-reserved services outside authorised entities. That would provide wider employment opportunities, give firms more freedom to compete, and increase access to justice.

We are starting with a reworking of the Principles, the Code of Conduct, the Practice Framework Regulations and the SRA Accounts Rules. They will establish clear standards, be easier to understand and navigate. And we plan to support the leaner more accessible Handbook with resources such as case studies, toolkits and better information for the public.

One thing we are not planning to change is the importance of the COLP/COFA roles. You understand these roles better than anyone, so we want to understand how these roles work in practice—what works, what does not, and what changes would help you.

And we have already started the process of getting as much feedback as we can from the profession to help develop our approach.

We have already set up a specific reference group to assist with our work, and more participants are welcome. For information on how to get involved, as well as updates on our thinking, visit Looking to the future.

We will be holding a series of events around the country to outline our thinking. A specific session for compliance officers will be held in London on Thursday, 23 June at 11:30 to 13:00 and 16:00 to 17:30.

We start, however, in Cardiff on Wednesday, 18 May, at the Radisson Blu hotel. There will be a specific session for in-house solicitors, as well as one for any solicitors or law firm employees later the same day. For more information and details for booking your place, visit www.sra.org.uk/events.

We will be consulting on our proposed changes in the summer. There will be plenty of opportunities before and during this consultation for everyone to tell us what they think of our proposals.