The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) recently sent its proposals on the dergulation of the legal profession to the Legal Services Board (LSB), who act as oversight regulator for legal services. The proposals seek to create different tiers of solicitors and reduce consumer protections, and drew sharp criticism from the Law Society of England and Wales.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority appears to be pursuing a deregulatory agenda based on flawed premises and at the expense of consumers said Law Society president Christina Blacklaws.
The misguided proposals now being considered by the oversight regulator fail the litmus tests for regulation: they jeopardise the public interest and risk weakening the rule of law she continued.
Amongst the SRA's proposals is a call to allow solicitors to deliver non-reserved legal services from unregulated entitiies which, the Law Society argues, would reduce or even remove client protections that are mandatory for regulated practices, such as PII, professional privilege and access to the legal compensation fund.
Another proposal is to allow freelance "sole solicitors" who can act outside of the protections that a recognised sole practice would provide. The Law Sociey considers that it is "unreasonable and unrealistic" to expect consumers to understand the difference between a sole solicitor and a recognised sole practice.
The proposals are not supported by robust impact assessments or cost-benefit analysis appropriate for rule changes that will fundamentally change the legal services landscape said Ms Blacklaws.
We urge the LSB to reject the SRA’s ill-conceived scheme to create a dangerously complex marketplace for legal services. Flexibility for solicitors should never come at the expense of protection for consumers.
The LSB is expected to respond within 4 weeks, although have the option to extend their deliberations to 90 days.