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LSB approves the SRA’s regulatory changes

The Legal Services Board (LSB) recently approved the SRA’s ‘Looking to the Future’ reforms, effectively giving the official go ahead for the regulatory changes which will be phased in over the course of the next year or so.

Just to recap, the ‘Looking to the Future’ reforms are the combined outcome of a number of fairly detailed and lengthy consultation carried out by the SRA over the past couple of years. The consultations focused on key areas such as simplification of the SRA Accounts Rules, shortening the SRA Handbook and the underlying principles, reforming the authorisation and monitoring process and encouraging greater transparency around what solicitors do and how they charge for it.

The approval has not given a more precise timetable for implementation of the new Accounts Rules however. When the original consultation into the new rules was first released back in 2016, we assumed a 2017 implementation was likely, and this expectation was pushed back several times. The most recent word from the SRA puts the new date at around April 2019, though given this will tie in with Brexit, it remains to be seen whether they are delayed further.

Narrative around the approval on the LSB’s website is fairly brief and offer no further clues. The LSB does however point out that representations from a number of individuals and businesses expressing concern over the proposals for a new category of ‘freelance’ solicitors and to allow solicitors to practice through unregulated firms were considered. 

These concerns do not appear to have changed the course of the reforms at all, and they were approved in full. A statement from the LSB Chair, Dr Helen Phillips, did contain a warning to the SRA however, placing a clear expectation on the SRA to monitor the risks associated with these concerns and to take action if they begin to materialise.

Ian Johnson, Director - Audit, Saffery Champness LLP