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.
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.’