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Freelance solicitors may be able to provide legal advice without professional indemnity insurance (PII), under new rules proposed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).  The plan has been strongly attacked by the Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) which say it would lower consumer protection.

The SRA has proposed a rule change, which would let freelance solicitors undertake ‘non-reserved’ work without PII.  Non-reserved work includes activities such as will writing, providing legal advice and most employment law.  Freelancers would still require insurance if they are undertaking any of the six reserved activities, such as preparing contacts for sale of property, conducting litigation or administering oaths.

In the SRA’s initial plans, freelance solicitors would have needed insurance for both reserved and non-reserved work.  Now the LSCP has written a strongly worded letter to the SRA, accusing it of reversing its position.  It says the new plans will increase confusion and reduce consumer protection.

It is vital that freelance solicitors are adequately and appropriately insured, regardless of whether they are also providing reserved or non-reserved services,” wrote Sarah Chambers, chair of the LSCP. “We know that consumers have very little awareness of the difference between regulated and unregulated providers, let alone the varying protections that come with different service providers,” she added.

The plans are unfair on solicitors practicing in firms who need PII cover for all their work argues James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions.  “Law firms will be at a competitive disadvantage if freelancers can undercut their rates because they do not need to meet the cost of insurance.” he said.

The SRA has published details of its plans on its website. The LSCP’s letter to the SRA has been published on its website.  News reports about the dispute have been published by the Law Society Gazette and Legal Futures.

Brunel Professions is a leading provider of PII insurance broking to the legal profession. To find out more call Mark Sommariva on 0203 475 3275.