Question of ethics archive

Important: The guidance below was written and issued before the introduction of the SRA Handbook on 6 October 2011, and may refer to regulatory material that is no longer in effect. Although it may still be relevant, this guidance has not been rewritten in light of the wide-ranging regulatory changes implemented on 6 October 2011. Accordingly, it has been archived.

September 2010

 Note: References to a "rule" or to the "Code" means the rules in the Solicitors' Code of Conduct 2007.

Position re PC on being admitted as a solicitor shortly before new practising year

Q. I am about to finish my training contract and am shortly to be admitted to the roll. I will be staying on with the firm, but they are reluctant to pay for a practising certificate until the new practising year begins. The HR department says that as long as I am only held out as a paralegal and not as a solicitor, I can do legal work without being in breach of any of the rules. Is this right?

No. Once you are admitted to the roll, you will be subject to the Solicitors' Code of Conduct 2007. Rule 20.04 states that if you are employed in connection with the provision of legal services, your participation in the firm must be in your capacity as a practising solicitor. In addition, the effect of section 1A of the Solicitors' Act 1974 is that you will be deemed to be practising as a solicitor and the Act therefore requires you to hold a practising certificate. This means that whilst you could be paid at a paralegal's rate, you would have to undertake the work and be held out as a solicitor, and would have to have a practising certificate.

You therefore have two choices:

  • Delay your admission until after 31 October and then apply for a practising certificate for the next full practising year; or
  • apply for a practising certificate to be issued simultaneously with your admission to the roll.

If you opt for delaying your admission, you will be able to work as a paralegal until such time as you are admitted.

Requirement for PC when working in-house

Q. I am a solicitor on the roll, and am returning to work after a career break, so I do not currently have a practising certificate. I have been offered a job in-house and my job title will be 'legal counsel'. My employer says that as since I will not referred to as a solicitor, I do not need a practising certificate. Is he right?

No. Whether you require a practising certificate is governed by rule 20.02 and if you refer to sub-paragraph (2), you will see that it depends on a number of factors, including:

  • whether your involvement in the work depends on your being a solicitor;
  • whether you are explicitly or implicitly employed as a practising solicitor; and
  • even if you are not explicitly held out as a solicitor, whether you are implicitly held out as such.

The guidance Do I need a Practising Certificate? Working for a non-solicitor organisation will help you to determine whether or not you require a practising certificate, or those circumstances in which it would be advisable for you to have one.

Requirements if not renewing your PC

Q. I am currently employed in private practice, but I will be retiring at the end of the month and will not therefore be renewing my practising certificate. Is there anything in particular I need to do?

Yes. If you are a solicitor, a registered European lawyer or a registered foreign lawyer and you cease to practice for whatever reason, you must inform us within 14 days (click here for contact details) and supply a contact address (Regulation 14.2, SRA Practising Regulations 2009).

We will write to you in due course (usually in April), asking whether you wish to remain on the roll. There is an annual fee payable for doing so, which is currently £20. If you decide not to remain on the roll, you may nevertheless apply to go back on to the roll at a later stage on completing the relevant form.

For guidance on what you are permitted to do if you remain on the roll, please see Do I need a practising certificate? Temporary break or retirement.