Local government lawyers have asked the Solicitors Regulation Authority to clarify who they can work for under the regulator’s proposals to give solicitors greater practising flexibility.
Responding to the SRA’s Looking to the Future consultation on the handbook and code of conduct, the group Lawyers in Local Government says clarity is needed on what is meant by ‘public or a section of the public’ in the context of local authority-employed solicitors who wish to provide advice to other bodies within the powers set out in the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970.
The call for clarity comes as town hall legal teams come up with innovative ways to generate income or improve efficiencies amid spending cuts, such as setting up alternative business structures or entering into shared services agreements with other public bodies.
LLG says local authority-employed solicitors operate primarily to provide reserved and non-reserved activities to the employer – the local authority – which is an entity unauthorised by the regulator.
It adds: ‘The point which is vital for us to understand is the extent to which other local authorities, public and third sector bodies fall within “public or section of the public”.’
It has called on the regulator to make a joint approach to the oversight regulator, the Legal Services Board, for government clarification on the wording, which originates from the Legal Services Act 2007.