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Law Society Submissions To The SRA Consultations

October 6, 2016

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A summary of the Law Society's final submissions to the SRA Looking to the Future consultations.

Responses to the SRA Looking to the Future consultations.
The Law Society’s response to Looking to the Future - flexibility and public protection consultation, said the proposals could weaken protections for consumers and undermine the global reputation of the legal sector.

The response goes on to say that the current package of protections for clients including legal professional privilege for communications, full insurance cover in the unlikely event things go wrong, and protection from the solicitor acting in conflict with the interests of the consumer are all threatened by the proposals.

Furthermore, the new regulatory proposals will create a two-tier solicitor profession - certain organisations will not be regulated despite employing solicitors and providing services to the public.

The rationale for the proposed changes is to increase client choice but the response argues that no evidence has been provided to demonstrate that the proposals will in fact achieve this.

The response to the Looking to the Future: Accounts Rules review consultation said that the Law Society supports the principle of simplification of the Accounts Rules as well as the permissive change to allow the use of TPMAs as an alternative to client accounts.

However, the Law Society does not agree with the proposed change in the definition of the client money and is not persuaded that the risks for clients would be offset by the suggested benefits of the proposed change.

Economic response to the SRA Handbook review
The Law Society's economic report published on 21 September points out that far from driving choice and tackling unmet legal need, the SRA's proposals are likely to cause consumer confusion.

Describing the SRA proposals as 'a solution in search of a problem,' the report argues that the SRA has not done enough to demonstrate that the positive impacts of the proposals are sufficient to outweigh the negative impacts.

The report also states that the SRA is making mistaken assumptions about users of legal services and that 'Unmet legal need' - a key justification for the proposals - is inappropriately defined.

Consumer poll and member survey
The Law Society undertook a consumer poll and a member survey on the SRA's proposals.

In the consumer poll:

77 per cent said the businesses in which solicitors work should be regulated
97 per cent said that advice from a solicitor on a new legal issue should be private and could not be made known to anyone else without prior consent
67 per cent said it is unacceptable for a solicitor from the same business to advise the other party involved in their legal issue
86 per cent thought businesses in which solicitors work should have professional negligence insurance
The survey asked if the money clients pay to solicitors up front should be kept in a separate account and used only for services to deal with the client's issue rather than being used for any other activities carried out by the business in which the solicitor works. 88 per cent thought the monies should be kept separate.

In the member survey:

  • 77 per cent think solicitor businesses should be regulated
  • 97 per cent want their legal matters to be confidential
  • 67 per cent don't want the solicitor of the other party in a legal issue to be from the same business as their solicitor
  • 86 per cent say solicitor businesses should have PII
  • 87 per cent think money they pay up-front to a solicitor should be kept in a separate account.

Credit: The Law Society

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