Independent research shows that solicitors have adapted to new rules and are starting to take advantage of extra freedoms available, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has said.
The poll of more than 3,000 solicitors found that around three-quarters (74%) were familiar with changes made two years ago and the majority were ‘positive’ about the replacement of the old SRA handbook.
The regulator says this attitude is born out by 413 solicitors choosing to work as freelancers, with a small but growing number of practitioners taking the opportunity to work for organisations not regulated by the SRA.
The new standards and regulations, introduced in 2019, allow solicitors to provide certain services directly to the public without needing to be in a regulated firm. This could be through a business other than a legal one or by acting as a freelance. The reforms also introduced separate codes of conduct for individuals and firms and updated the principles solicitors are expected to uphold.
The research showed high awareness among the profession of the new codes and principles, although little more than half the respondents said they found the tools and resources published by the SRA useful.
The SRA said the results showed the majority of the profession had embraced the changes, although just 54% said the new rules provided greater flexibility and 37% felt that new flexibilities had helped them cope better with the constraints brought in by the Covid-19 pandemic.
SRA chief executive Paul Philip said: ‘At a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has placed huge pressures on both consumers and law firms, removing unnecessary regulatory burdens and allowing solicitors to be more agile and adaptable in how they work day-to-day looks to have been of direct benefit to many.
‘Of course, it’s still early days, and we won’t truly see the impact these changes will deliver for the public for some time to come, but overall the findings of this research suggest encouraging signs that we are moving in the right direction.’
The research, undertaken by the Centre for Strategy and Evaluation, was designed to give early indications about how the reforms were settling in. The SRA said it will now look at whether to remove any more restrictions on how freelancers can practise, including the current prohibition on immigration or claims management work. Further reviews will also be made of insurance arrangements for freelancers or solicitors working in a non-regulated business.