News release

SRA looks to the future, setting out a new regulatory model

We have outlined our vision for the future, pushing ahead with a fundamental shift away from prescriptive rules in favour of protecting the public by setting out the principles solicitors should follow.

Our phased review of how we regulate has been launched with the publication of a position paper. In the paper, we focus on the future, committing to further simplify both its overall approach and the Handbook. We plan to give legal firms greater freedom to run their businesses as they need to.

This flexibility will help firms adapt to the rapidly-changing legal market. And there are proposals to remove restrictions on where solicitors can work so that they can provide services such as legal advice more widely.

As well as providing greater freedom to firms and solicitors, the changes will mean more choice and access to services for the public. Part of the review will look at how to help the public chose the legal service that is right for them, and to know what protections are in place.

We will focus its regulatory measures on the areas of greatest risk, helping to deliver more targeted, effective safeguards. The paper sets out plans for a new-look Handbook, with moves to much briefer guidance and resources.

Paul Philip, our CEO, said: "Today we are looking to the future and sharing our plans to review our regulatory model and our Handbook. At the heart of this is the goal of protecting the public and encouraging a vibrant, competitive legal market.

"The legal services market is developing at an unprecedented rate and the expected review of the Legal Services Act may bring further changes. We have to design an up-to-date and fit-for-purpose approach that will protect the public and give flexibility to the profession.

"We want to move away from a prescriptive set of complex rules to focus on core professional standards, with additional restrictions only when necessary.

"I want to see an end to the long and unwieldy Handbook and instead give the profession simple, clear guidance on what we require. And I think we can do much more to help the public find the services they need and to know what to do if things go wrong.

"This approach will benefit the public and the profession alike. It frees up solicitors and firms, boosting competition while ensuring a focus on the greatest risks to consumers and helping people to use legal services effectively."

We will launch a formal consultation on the proposed changes in spring next year. There will be further consultations as part of a phased review over the next eighteen months.

 

Note to editors

The position paper can be found here:

Go to the position paper

Feedback can be submitted at https://forms.sra.org.uk/s3/handbookreview or emailed to reform@sra.org.uk

A webinar will be held today, Thursday for those wanting further information. Those interested in watching can do so here:

Register for the webinar

The current SRA Handbook was introduced in October 2011. It started the move away from a prescriptive, rules-based approach and instead asked solicitors to focus on getting the best outcomes for clients.

 In May 2014, we announced an ambitious programme of reform, with the aim of reducing unnecessary rules and regulations that do not protect the interests of clients. Nearly 40 such rules have been removed in the 18 months since the programme was launched.