The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is planning to consult on proposals to move away from the prescriptive rules in the SRA handbook in favour of principle-based regulation.  The SRA believes a new approach to regulation will do “more to allow flexibility for solicitors and freedom for firms to grow, innovate, compete, and develop high quality services.”

The proposals set out in a SRA position paper, “Looking to the future”, will refocus regulation towards a set of core principles.  The move is designed to give greater freedom to firms and solicitors and offer more choice and access to services for the public.

Solicitors could offer legal services and advice even if they work for organisations not authorised by the legal regulator. Solicitors working for membership organisations, charities and local authorities may be able to offer legal advice under the proposals.

Enid Rowlands, chair of the SRA board, said: “Do we really need such complex and restrictive rules when solicitors are already bound by core professional standards and principles such as integrity, confidentiality, and independence?

Paul Philip, chief executive of the SRA, said: “I want to see an end to the long and unwieldy handbook and instead give the profession simple, clear guidance on what we require. And I think we can do much more to help the public find the services they need and to know what to do if things go wrong.

James Page, Director – Head of Client Servicing, Brunel Professional Risks welcomes the proposals. “The SRA’s new approach to regulation will give solicitors much more freedom in the way they deliver legal services.  Insurers will need to think about how they offer professional indemnity insurance to solicitors working outside traditional, regulated law firms.  This gives the insurance market an opportunity to innovate to support the changing legal sector.”

The SRA is expected to consult on its new approach to regulation in spring 2016.  The position paper, ‘Looking to the Future’ and press release are available on the regulator’s website.  Reports on the proposed changes have been published by the Law Society Gazette and Solicitors Journal.