Solicitors’ handbook to be slashed from 600 to 50 pages

Topics: Regulation and compliance

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  • Crispin Passmore

Solicitors will be given just five pages of rules in a proposed slashing of the regulations imposed on the profession.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority yesterday outlined plans to reduce the code of conduct to just 10 pages - five each for firms and individuals - in a revamped set of rules.

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Plans are also underway to cut the SRA Handbook from its current 600 pages to nearer 50. The revised handbook and code of conduct will be published for consultation in June.

SRA executive director Crispin Passmore (pictured) said the new documents will change the way the regulator operates, from prescriptive rules to setting a collection of values and behaviours that solicitors should adhere to.

‘We don’t need to explain in detail what is permitted, solicitors just need to know our position,’ said Passmore.

The regulator is in the middle of an 18-month process aimed at simplifying its approach and shrinking the 600-page SRA handbook. The concept of fewer rules was set out in a discussion paper last November.

One of the key changes to the handbook will be changes to the rules around client accounts.

Passmore said the SRA has already agreed to a handful of firms using third party provider Barco handling client money, on an ad hoc basis.

He added: ‘Accounts rules should be about how to manage client money rather than how to look after a client account. We have started to say we will allow people to do it in different ways – [third party providers] are not risk free but they do remove some risk.’

But the Law Society has already warned the SRA it will oppose any attempt to restrict solicitors from holding client money.

Chancery Lane is asking members from today for their views on alternatives to client accounts.

Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon said: ‘The Law Society would oppose any attempt to restrict solicitors from holding client money. We have seen no evidence that this is necessary or appropriate.

‘We would be concerned that third-party managed accounts could provide less client protection, be more costly and therefore financially damaging to firms and to the legal services market, in particular the conveyancing market.’

Readers' comments (25)

  • 600 down to 50, a good idea in principle, but it all depends on what those pages say. As for third parties holding client monies, please, please, have a close look at the problems posed to French avocets who have such a system and who complain bitterly about the, on average three week, delay in getting their clients' money.

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  • PS 'Avocats', of course! Damn predictive text!

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  • Mais mon ami David, I thought zose French Avocets ver jerst long-legged birds zat pecked around ze beaches de Normandie. If zay are handling client money zen I can understand why zay are complaining. Quelle horreur!

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  • page 1
    rule 1
    The aim of the SRA is to so dispirit youso that you give up .
    rule2
    eh...there is no rule 2.

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  • Can people please wake up and see this for the weasel words they are?

    This is about implementing a series of vague "outcomes" that leave the SRA as judge, jury and executioner as to whether you've complied.

    Long detailed rules actually benefit the profession because it is then clear whether or not you've complied and can tell the SRA to take a running jump! This is what the SRA are seeking to avoid.

    It's not about less regulation it's about vague regulation that the SRA can run the rule over.

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  • Silly proposals merit silly responses so I would suggest.

    Nice one mate!
    Oi leave it. . . .
    Your (sic) out of order.
    Bang out of order.
    Get out of my pub
    You sl*g.

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  • "behaviours".......dreadful Americanism - "behaviour" does nicely.

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  • I agree with anon 01:17 p.m. Aspirations and values aren't rules. 'Outcomes' is a meaningless, management-speak word. On the other hand, this does afford an opportunity to start a sweep stake on how long it will take to ballon back to 600 pages. I say 4 years.

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  • David how do you know so much about the french system when you live in Wales?

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  • @Anonymous23 March 2016 01:17 pm

    I whole heartedly agree. In fact, I specifically asked someone very senior (I prefer not to mention names) at the SRA as to why we should trust them to be our "judge, jury and executioner" (exact words I used as you do too in your post) at an SRA event and his reply was the usual bunkum that the SRA have changed etc etc.

    I like prescriptive rules like a hole in the head ...but the alternative is so much worse and subject to the vagaries of what the SRA will deem them to be.

    Not good.

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