A police force and a pioneer in new legal technology are among the early adopters of a ‘safe space’ to exempt innovators from regulations.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority announced earlier this year it would increase the scope of its waivers policy to allow applicants to avoid rules that were not necessary to them.
The so-called safe space also involved the creation of a register for explaining the conditions of each waiver – that list has now been published.
But the SRA says it does not intend at this stage to give details of the estimated 1,300 waivers issued before July, the point at which the safe space was extended. This exempt group would include the waivers granted to US online document provider Rocket Lawyer and consumer group Which?.
Included in the successful waiver applications is Derbyshire Constabulary’s in-house legal department, which is allowed to provide legal services to Northampton Fire and Rescue Service – an option not currently permitted according to solicitor rules.
The SRA said the government requires greater collaboration between emergency services as a result of the Policing and Crime Act 2017, and the three-year waiver presents no risk to consumer protection.
Among the other six new waivers is one granted to Riverview Law, which is allowed an exemption from SRA indemnity insurance rules because the firm has insurance equivalent to the same cover from a firm outside of the list of SRA participating insurers. Riverview’s waiver was valid from the end of August – the same time as it was acquired by accountancy giant EY.
Elsewhere, a Lincolnshire firm is permitted to operate without a COLP or COFA (likely to be because it is converting to alternative business structure status, where these positions are referred to as HOLPs and HOFAs), a Spanish firm is allowed to deploy lawyers in this country without them having SRA authorisation, and a ‘virtual’ firm is able to use a PO Box number as a practising address.
In April, when the new policy was announced, SRA chief executive Paul Philip said most consumers would support proposals for regulators to ‘get out of the way’ of businesses that want to offer legal services in different ways.