Newly qualified solicitors will be able to set up their own practices without the need for post-qualification supervision under proposals announced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).  The controversial proposal is one of a raft of changes proposed by the regulator in the second phase of its rule book reforms.

Other contentious changes proposed by the SRA include allowing freelance solicitors to provide reserved legal activities as individuals, without being part of a partnership or company.  Reserved activities include tasks such as the right to appear in court on behalf of a client, conduct litigation, administer oaths or undertake probate work.

The proposals have sparked a wave of controversy.  Dr Jane Martin, chair of the LSCP, said the reforms were “unlikely to assist consumers, especially vulnerable ones, in choosing services in times of distress”.  The Law Society claimed the proposed changes “could increase uncertainty for the profession and erode vital client protections. We take the view that flexibility for solicitors should not come at the expense of clients.

Defending its plans, the SRA said it was getting rid of unnecessary bureaucracy that drives up costs or restricts access to solicitors, while making sure the right public protections remain in place.  It argued that the current rules preventing solicitors establishing their own firms once they have qualified does “not provide any guarantee of competence.” It added that “solicitors and firms do not need pages and pages of detailed, prescriptive rules to do the right thing.”

New rules on professional indemnity insurance to accommodate the proposed changes will be included in the SRA’s wider review of financial protection arrangements.  “Professional indemnity insurance is a vital part of consumer protection and offers solicitors protection against vexatious complaints,” said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions. “The SRA has been keen to change the rules around PI insurance for some time.  It will be interesting to see what insurance requirements they propose for freelance solicitors and practices run by newly-qualified solicitors.”

The SRA consultation on the rule changes has been published on its website.  The Law  Society and Legal Services Consumer Board have published their responses online.  Reports on the changes have been published by Legal Futures and the Law Society Gazette.

Brunel Professions is a leading provider of PII insurance broking to the legal profession. To find out more call Jonathan Filer on +44 (0)117 325 0752.