SRA to overhaul regulation and scrap ‘unjustified’ rules

first_imgThe Solicitors Code of Conduct is to be rewritten and a swath of detailed conduct rules are likely to scrapped under plans being discussed today by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The SRA intends to fundamentally reform the way it regulates, moving from the current ‘box-ticking’ system of detailed rules to ‘principles-based regulation’, similar to the regime used by the Financial Services Authority. However, the proposals, which are contained in a consultation paper soon to be launched by the SRA, have attracted criticism that the new system will cause uncertainty for the profession. Under the plans, the SRA will move to the new style of regulation in 2011, to coincide with the introduction of alternative business structures (ABSs). It will set out the principles by which firms are expected to conduct their business and the outcomes they must achieve. But there will be far fewer rules governing the process by which firms should arrive at these outcomes, giving greater flexibility to firms. Any rules that cannot be ‘justified’ will be scrapped, the SRA says. Firms will be regulated differently according to the risk they pose, the consultation paper says. SRA firm visits will take on a different tone, moving away from investigations of rule breaches towards a discussion about a firm’s risk management systems, with ‘less ticking of boxes’. There will be more enforcement action based on ‘breaches of principles’ and ‘failure to achieve defined outcomes’, and fewer based on ‘failure to comply with detailed rules’. The SRA stressed that it would not be lowering the standard required from firms or the level of customer protection. The SRA will issue guidance on how the new rules should be interpreted. Some elements of the regulatory regime, such as those relating to the indemnity regime and licensing requirements, will still be subject to more detailed rules. Frank Maher, a partner at Legal Risk in Liverpool, said: ‘I am not sure the profession is ready for yet another upheaval. We have only had the code of conduct since 2007, and there is some concern that there has been a little too much tinkering over the past 12 months… People will fear the lack of clarity.’ A Law Society spokeswoman said it had endorsed the move towards outcomes-focused regulation, but warned this must not become ‘regulation by ambush’. Solicitors must be given guidance on what would be acceptable, she said, adding that it was ‘very ambitious to expect this to be introduced in 2011’. She added: ‘It is important that this is done right rather than rushed to meet an apparently arbitrary deadline.’ The SRA will shortly launch a ‘high-level’ consultation on the changes, and will then consult on a revised code of conduct in April/May 2010, with the new code to follow in 2011. See also Opinionlast_img read more

LSB research reveals public ‘don’t know what lawyers do’

first_imgMore than two-thirds of consumers have ‘little or no knowledge’ of what lawyers do, research published last week has revealed. A YouGov survey of 2,033 individuals commissioned by the Legal Services Board found that 68% were largely ignorant of what lawyers did. And less than half (47%) said they were ‘fairly confident’ they could judge the quality of help they received. Cost was considered to be a major driver in choosing a solicitor for more than half of respondents, and yet 77% of those who had instructed a solicitor had not shopped around to compare prices. The research, which was commissioned to mark the start of the LSB’s regulatory regime on 1 January, found a high degree of satisfaction with solicitors among the public. More than three-quarters of those who had used a solicitor were either ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the service they had received, and 67% said they were fairly or very likely to recommend their solicitor to friends or family. Only 13% of respondents said they would buy legal services from supermarkets. LSB chairman David Edmonds (pictured) said the research showed that consumers do not always have the information or skills to choose a lawyer based on their own assessment of quality or cost. Edmonds continued: ‘The reforms to be brought about by the new regulatory framework have the potential to change the relationship between lawyers and the public. Our goal is to enhance the interests of ­consumers through effective competition and more innovative ways of delivering legal services.’ Law Society president Robert Heslett said: ‘We welcome the finding that three-quarters of consumers were satisfied with the legal services they received. Considering that the public often consult solicitors at a time of great strain in their lives – such as when moving house or getting divorced – that is a tribute to the excellence of the service most solicitors provide.’last_img read more

The SRA is adamant that ‘outcomes-focused’ does not mean ‘light-touch’

first_img‘Principles-based regulation will sustain the current, rigorous regulatory environment, but with better and more effective outcomes.’ No, that’s not what the SRA says about today’s implementation of outcomes-focused regulation – but what the Financial Services Authority said about its own switch to an ‘outcome-focused’ compliance regime back in April 2007. And we know what happened subsequently, because we are still living with the dire consequences. There remains cause for bemusement that the legal sector was keen to ape an organisation that so abysmally failed to anticipate the banking crisis. But the parallels should not be overplayed. SRA chief executive Antony Townsend has been punctilious – one might even say ‘prescriptive’ – in his insistence that OFR is not ‘light-touch’ regulation and will not mean a lowering of standards. If it works, and that remains to be seen, OFR does have the potential to free solicitors from box-ticking and form-filling. And as Tony Guise points out in his mini ‘user-guide’, OFR differs from other ostensibly ‘risk-based’ systems because there is a wealth of prescriptive rules in the new Handbook underpinning the SRA’s putative culture change. Like Dr Pangloss then, we must hope that ‘all’s for the best in the best of all possible worlds’. We will certainly be interested to hear of your experiences as OFR beds in.last_img read more

Legal aid

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Big top for tall towers

first_imgGet your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community Subscribe now for unlimited access To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGINlast_img read more

Engineers anonymous

first_imgSubscribe now for unlimited access Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our communitylast_img read more

Whizz-bang walloped

first_imgTo continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe now for unlimited access Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our communitylast_img read more

Symptoms of a soft market

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How to get a break

first_imgStay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe now for unlimited accesslast_img read more

Forum for debate

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