Legal Services Regulators

The UK has one of the world’s most dynamic legal services markets.  It is home to some of the largest legal services providers, many of whom have taken advantage of the liberal business structures available.  In contrast to other jurisdictions, England and Wales permits the external ownership of law firms and a wide range of practice structures regulated by ten front line regulators.
 

The underpinning statutory framework enables new regulators to enter the market and for existing regulators to change and develop their regulatory arrangements with the approval of the overarching regulator, the Legal Services Board.

Iain Miller and Jessica Clay have extensive experience in advising the majority of legal services regulators and supporting them in developing and operating their regulatory schemes.  Additionally, we have senior lawyers in our team who have worked extensively at legal services regulators in England and Wales. Our expert support in this area has recently included: drafting codes of conduct and other regulatory rules, assisting with applications to become a licensing authority for Alternative Business Structures (ABS) and preparing drafts of statutory instruments to extend or amend regulatory arrangements under Section 69 of the Legal Services Act 2007 (LSA).  Our clients also come to us for advice on interpreting the provisions of the LSA and other relevant statutes, policy development and other strategic issues.  We have also acted for legal services regulators in judicial reviews and other statutory challenges in respect of their decision making powers.

Our expertise in this area has also led to us advising legal regulators in other jurisdictions around the world on their schemes in the light of our experience of the England and Wales legal services framework.

“The firm has strength in depth. It benefits from a stable of very effective and hard-working lawyers and a leadership team who are not afraid to innovate 

Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK Legal Profession,  2017

 

Latest blogs & news

Harcus Sinclair v Your Lawyers - Another nail in the coffin of solicitors’ undertakings?

Every solicitor knows that an undertaking is serious stuff.   Arguably it is the greatest power available to a solicitor.  A promise, if broken, that will lead to immediate and serious consequences for the giver.  As such it can be relied upon to the ends of the earth.  The power of undertakings has meant that they sit at the heart of every property transaction, bridging the time gap between the sending of money and the receiving of title.  They are also used in other areas of commercial life and as part of litigation.  The “brand” of a solicitor’s undertaking is so powerful that little thought is given as to where their power comes from. 

Ethical imperatives

Julie Norris and Jessica Clay consider SRA entity regulation and the imperative to create an ethical (ergo, compliant) legal workplace.

All well and good

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of good mental health and resilience both in and out of the office. Bronwen Still and Lucinda Soon consider your obligations

More clarity needed from the SRA on boundaries concerning sexual misconduct and harassment in law firms

The solicitors’ watchdog is right to take charge of misconduct cases but it needs firmer guidance to succeed 

Beckwith v SRA – are there implications for the regulation of professional accountants who face sexual misconduct allegations?

In our fourth blog in our series on Beckwith v Solicitors Regulation Authority [2020] EWHC 3231 (Admin), we turn our attention to consider what impact, if any, this landmark decision might have on the regulation of professional accountants. While the case turned on some very specific features relating to the regulation of solicitors as contained in the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) Principles and Code of conduct, some parts of the judgment may have more general application.

Post-Beckwith – where to now for sexual misconduct cases?

In the two years preceding Ryan Beckwith’s appeal to the High Court, the SRA pursued a handful of other sexual misconduct cases before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (Tribunal). These cases are varied and fact-specific and include sexual misconduct in and relating to the workplace and conduct outside of work.

Where have we reached on costs in proceedings before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal post Beckwith?

Regulatory investigations across all sectors are increasing in complexity, with a corresponding increase in the size of the cost applications made by regulators upon successful prosecution. For solicitors facing investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (‘SRA’), the costs associated with prosecutions before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (‘SDT’) have made the headlines recently for their size. In Beckwith, for example, the Divisional Court referred to the SRA’s costs of c.£340,000 as “alarming.

The SRA’s updated NDA warning notice introduces welcome clarity

On 12 March 2018 the SRA published its warning notice on the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). This was in the wake of the widespread publicity at the time given to NDAs which had been considered too draconian in reach and effect.

The use of artificial intelligence: interesting technological developments in the legal and accountancy sectors

In this second blog in our technology and innovation series, we look at some recent developments in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal and accountancy sectors.

Technology in the accountancy and legal sectors – what are the regulators doing? The long read…

In the first of our Tech blog series, we take a look at how regulators in the accountancy and legal sectors are supporting technological innovation in their respective professional sectors, and how they themselves might adapt their regulatory approach in the new era of digital technology.

The SRA Standards and Regulations – a year on

It has been a year since the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) launched its Standards and Regulations (StaRs) and even longer since the revised Enforcement Strategy was rolled out.  This time last year, we produced a series of blogs relating to launch of the StaRs and provided our views on what we thought you needed to know.

FAQs : The SRA's early character and suitability assessment

The route to obtaining a prestigious job in the legal profession is hard enough without the worry of whether past misdemeanours will prevent you from being admitted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) as a solicitor. Convictions or cautions in early life (for even relatively minor offences), student disciplinary findings, civil debts and the like, are all capable of preventing prospective solicitors seeking admission to the roll becoming qualified as a solicitor. Since May 2018, prospective solicitors have had the ability to seek an early character and suitability assessment under the Authorisation of Individuals Regulations,[1] enabling them to understand if something they did in the past could be a bar to entry to the profession.  

Are you getting complacent with compliance?

After months of many solicitors working from home, it's easy to get comfortable. But with complacency comes the risk of non-compliance with your regulatory obligations. Jessica Clay provides a refresher on your duties, the risks involved in remote working, and how you can stay compliant.

Sexual misconduct allegations in law firms are ever-present – following due process is key

As another case involving allegations of sexual misconduct relating to a senior partner of a law firm has been concluded before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal just this week, resulting in the imposition of a £10,000 fine being confirmed on 22 July 2020, it is perhaps safe to say that, for now, there is no sign that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has lost its appetite to investigate and act on reports of this nature that it receives. 

“Regulation beyond the echo chambers”: who is listening?

Professor Stephen Mayson’s ‘Reforming Legal Services: Regulation beyond the echo chambers’ report has now been submitted to the Lord Chancellor as the final product of a two-year independent review into the regulation of legal services in England and Wales.  

Promoting a good working culture in law firms - Part 3: The importance of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives in promoting a good working culture

Julie Norris and Jessica Clay spoke at the end of January 2020 at the ARK risk and compliance conference on the topic of promoting a good working culture in law firms.  This is the final blog in a series of three blogs. It focuses on the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives in promoting a good working culture

Promoting a good working culture in law firms - Part 2: The importance of wellbeing in the workplace

Julie Norris and Jessica Clay spoke at the end of January 2020 at the ARK risk and compliance conference on the topic of promoting a good working culture in law firms.  This blog is the second in a series of three and focuses on the importance of wellbeing in the workplace.

COVID-19: If you get a fixed penalty notice for non-compliance with lockdown measures – do you have to tell the Solicitors Regulation Authority?

With BBC reports that there have been 178,000 incidents of anti-social behaviour in the last four weeks across England and Wales alone, if a solicitor receives a fixed penalty notice for a non-essential journey away from home - do they have to inform the SRA?

Promoting a good working culture in law firms - Part 1: What is a manager's role?

Julie Norris and Jessica Clay spoke at the end of January at the ARK risk and compliance conference on the topic of promoting a good working culture in law firms.  This blog is the first in a series of three and focuses on the role of managers in embedding this culture in the workplace

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