Regulation experts specialising in advising lawyers on how to stay compliant have created their own firm after a spike in recent enquiries.
Bennett Briegal LLP was launched at the start of this month by former Aaron & Partners solicitors Paul Bennett and Mark Briegal, focusing on helping law firms resolve their management challenges and compliance issues.
Despite efforts to cut red tape by the SRA, they say compliance has become more complex in recent years. The pair cite new obligations around compliance officers and transparency, and increased demand for advice on civil justice reforms. Other firms have required guidance on converting from traditional partnerships and LLPs to limited companies and alternative business structures.
The pair report that demand from lawyers for regulatory advice has increased 50% in the last five years, in terms of the number of instructions.
The figures appear to bear this out, with more solicitors prosecuted for misconduct than ever before and the complexity of cases resulting in longer proceedings. Last November the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal requested an extra £300,000 for its operating budget, based on an estimated 35% rise in its workload.
The SRA has projected it will need 406 sitting days in 2019, as opposed to 300 last year, while applications to prosecute will increase from around 136 to more than 200.
Solicitors must also grapple with a new handbook this year, while new rules about price publication could soon result in prosecutions if firms do not comply.
Bennett said: ‘Law is now one of the most heavily regulated sectors in the world here in England and Wales. If you are a US firm needing advice on local regulation, a partner in a City firm being investigated by the SRA whose career and reputation are at stake, a personal injury firm working with a range of CMCs, or a law firm seeking to acquire rival firms to grow your market share, then a specialist firm with lawyers focused on that is enormously reassuring.’
Bennett, a solicitor-advocate, has represented solicitors before the tribunal and has written two books on compliance for Law Brief Publishing.
Briegal has advised solicitors, doctors, dentists, accountants, haulage contractors, farmers and a range of other professionals on all aspects of their partnerships and LLPs, including mergers and acquisitions and partner disputes.