The Solicitors Regulation Authority has been asked to give more detail before plans to grant waivers for non-compliance with regulations can be backed.
The Law Society today said the proposals may harm consumer protection and more explanation is needed about how they will work.
Regulators want to change the existing system of granting exemptions from the rules only in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
That would widen under the plans to allow any rule or regulation that is not a legal requirement to be waived provided doing so was not at odds with the regulatory objectives of the Legal Services Act.
The SRA says it will simplify the system and encourage firms to innovate without being held back by unnecessary regulations.
Law Society president Robert Bourns said he welcomed attempts to increase simplification but could not support waiver reforms without more explanation of what they mean in practice.
‘The SRA has provided far too little detail on how a new process would operate to allow for a meaningful consultation,’ said Bourns.
‘The Law Society would oppose any weakening of the criteria for granting professional indemnity insurance waivers in particular. PII is a direct protection for clients and it is appropriate that stricter criteria are required before these rules can be waived.’
The SRA consultation includes circumstances in which a waiver would not be granted, for example if a firm applies for one on the basis it cannot afford insurance cover but carries out ‘low risk’ work.
Applicants must be able to identify the impact of the waiver and the SRA will then consider if there are any competing objectives.
The regulator says it may publish waivers on its website to ensure fairness and transparency, and potentially to show firms what examples of innovation are permitted.
Bourns said a full impact assessment should be published and consulted on before any new policy is decided.
He added: ‘Any future policy must be transparent to minimise competitive disadvantage for firms that have not applied for waivers, particularly where this might create confusion for consumers and so undermine the integrity of the legal system.’