The Law Society has made one final attempt to secure more robust consumer protections under the regulator’s newly liberalised practising regime.
Chancery Lane has asked the Legal Services Board (LSB) to impose extra requirements on solicitors who may otherwise be free to offer legal services without insurance in the employment of an unregulated business.
The representative body also wants better consumer protections for those using the newly created class of ‘freelance solicitor’, who will be self-employed and practise in their own name.
Under the new SRA regime, expected to come into force in November, freelance solicitors are required to purchase indemnity insurance only if they are providing reserved legal services. Their clients may also be excluded from making claims against the compensation fund.
The LSB has effectively rubber-stamped the SRA reforms in principle but has the power to amend them.
‘Freelance solicitors (or at least those providing reserved services) are required to purchase “adequate and appropriate” PII, but the SRA has not provided sufficiently clear explanations of what they mean by the term,’ says the Society’s president Christina Blacklaws in a letter to the LSB. ‘Without a robust definition, enforcement action against freelance solicitors for not obtaining the expected level of cover will prove problematic. ‘
The Society submits that solicitors working in unregulated firms should be required to maintain PII to avoid public confusion and risks to the wider system of consumer protections.
Blacklaws concludes that the new rules on freelance solicitors and solicitors working in unregulated firms cannot be safely implemented at this time, and urges the LSB not to approve the reforms in their entirety.
The SRA maintains that its reforms allow solicitors greater freedom in how they deliver legal services, which will in turn benefit the public and the profession. Speaking last month, chair Anna Bradley said: ‘By stripping away outdated and unnecessary rules and giving solicitors more flexibility to design and deliver their services around their clients, our new regulations are designed to help people access a wide range of high quality services with the confidence that proper protections are in place.’