Analysis of New SRA Standards & Regulations (25/11/2019) – Hmmm Interesting….

New SRA Standards and Regulations

I have been scratching my head after receiving training regarding the new SRA Standards & Regulations. In part, I was provided with a more pessimistic outlook in contrast to my optimistic outlook – with respect to the changes. I guess the journey to a more balanced outlook had to start somewhere. This blog is more an introductory article with my preliminary thoughts on the changes

Right, so let’s get started.

I am built in the way that I must understand an issue fully when it comes to me. I get annoyed with myself if I do not. Now, this being said, I appreciate that regulatory matters like this are an on-going matter that will take much of my time during my career. Ah well, swings and roundabouts, I guess. It is not an aspect that I have found particularly stressful. Regardless, this sector will need regulation no matter how much it may frustrate some.

Introduction of the New SRA Standards and Regulations

Initially, I posted about this a long time ago and referred people to the guidance available at the time. It is a good idea to highlight a few aspects that interested me and may assist you. Well now (cue serious music), the new regulations are in place as of 25/11/2019.

They are not retrospective.  However, they have been highlighted by the SRA as being simpler rules, with more flexibility and more trust being placed in legal professionals. 

Read the New Rules?

Now, have you read them? I hate to sound patronizing but it is a very good idea to have a thorough read.

Oh and for the employees who are sitting back with their feet on the desk thinking these regulations only apply to solicitors etc. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, I would suggest you consider the wording of the Code of Conduct for Firms. When reading, you will note that employees are not exempt. As a matter of priority, you should consider the new regulations and note which aspects apply to you also. 

So, what should you read?

Well, I would recommend reading all of the below. However, if you are staggering your night time reading, it would be a good start to consider points 1-3 below asap.

  1. SRA Principles;
  2. Code of Conduct Solicitors;
  3. Code of Conduct for Firms;
  4. Accounts Rules;
  5. Enforcement Strategy;
  6. Reporting & Notification Obligations .

It may also be the case that after you have read the full regulations, your interest maybe peaked. This may be by the prospect that this new system, whilst being more flexible, trusting and simpler leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Oh and a wide scope for regulatory action.  Hmmm, food for thought.

However, I do not envy the role of the SRA and striking a balance that will please all is an unenviable task!

I guess it is impossible to have the best of both worlds. As time progresses, we can aim to strike a balance between the opposing views of overcomplicated regulations and those that do not provide sufficient guidance and leave a lot of room for interpretation disputes. 

The Response to the Consultation

I am led to believe that only 9 solicitors responded to the SRA consultation on the changes. Can you believe it?!  I mean, all cards on the table, I was not one of them. However, I am kicking myself for this approach and I think a lot of us should be doing so.

Perhaps it is the case that a lot of people thought:

  • ‘oh, a lot of other solicitors will voice the opinions I feel’ or
  • people were too busy and/or
  • held the confidence that ‘I will never fall foul of these issues’.

Whatever the reasoning, I was shocked to see the low number of legal professionals responding. I have taken this as a personal lesson learned!

Get more involved!

I mean we spend our lives educating/training for this very same career. Therefore, how is it the case that out of the approximately 140,000 solicitors only 9 responded? I do not know. I secretly hope the figures provided to me were grossly incorrect.

I know I said I will not go into the finer details in this article. Nevertheless, I want to give you a reason why we should have got more involved.

Did you know the burden of proof for an allegation made against a solicitor was previously beyond reasonable doubt and now is on the balance of probabilities? I mean do you all realise the gravity of this change. Well, you must do surely – considering our profession.

This is surely a point that will cause plenty of issues going forth. I would not be surprised if in the future this approach will be reconsidered. I guess this will be one of the points I will debate in a future article – when I have some time.

Okay back to the new system 

Well, it is definitely shorter…a lot shorter!

This, in a sense, is excellent but again leaves scope for interpretation disputes. I believe that this process of changing regulations will take some more time and fine-tuning. The hope is that during this time a measured approach is taken.  In order to prevent many cases of perceived injustice being raised and calling into question the whole new regulatory system.

The further hope is that hand in hand the system can be developed to ensure not only regulation but to also support the legal representatives. Especially, those who have no intention to be in breach and work hard with an approach driven by integrity and honesty.

I mean surely this is the vast majority of the legal professionals.

The few ‘bad apples’ do need to be dealt with.  However, a broad-brush approach could potentially cause individuals to lose their careers, livelihoods, and future on the basis of an interpretation dispute. This would be a horrible outcome. I don’t envisage this will necessarily be the case but any injustice would be a sad affair. I guess this will all be decided on a case by case basis and the processes are in place to deal with these issues moving forth. 

I see I have gone off on a tangent. I mean, it is a very good subject that has caught my attention and will likely lead to me researching further and writing on this topic.

For the time being, I guess the main point to take away is to read the standard and regulations and make yourself comfortable with the current issues around them. This includes the interpretation disputes that are already bubbling up and will surely be developed by these issues being disputed, tried and tested.