In the Media

Society pours cold water on the SRA?s red-tape bonfire

PUBLISHED February 15, 2013

Friday 15 February 2013 by Gazette reporter

The Law Society has come to the defence of nearly half the items on a menu of 'unnecessary' red tape drawn up by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Of 10 proposals for abolishing regulations and simplifying processes, the Society fully supports only four, opposes another four, and accepts two with reservations.

In a response to an SRA consultation, the Society says that some of the proposals 'raise difficult issues of policy that seem to us to amount to more than red tape' and that 'there is a risk that the SRA may not be grappling appropriately with some of the issues raised by these questions'.

It raises particular concerns about proposals to remove restrictions on charging by in-house lawyers employed in not-for-profit organisations and to allow in-house solicitors employed by local authorities to charge charities for legal services.

Lifting the restrictions, the Society says, would allow local government in-house solicitors to compete with private practitioners, without entity regulation, in areas where previously this would not have been possible.

'This suggests that local government in-house solicitors will be at an advantage to firms in private practice, who have higher regulatory costs and burdens; it is unclear why this should be the case.'

However the Society is more sympathetic to the proposal that originally inspired the red-tape challenge - to remove the need for training establishments to apply for approval to second their trainees to other organisations. 'We have sympathy with this proposal because the existing system is laborious and provides little value to anyone,' the Society says.

It also agrees with a proposal that it should be possible for compliance officers of a regulated body to be able to apply to be the officer for legal practice, and finance and administration for any related entities, without the need to be a manager or an employee of the related entities.

The cuts in red tape are due to feature in a new edition of the SRA Handbook to appear in April.