Widespread concerns about deregulation of the solicitor profession must be taken into account and new rules rejected by the oversight regulator, the Law Society of England and Wales said today as the Legal Services Board considers proposals to create different tiers of solicitors and reduce consumer protections.

Christina Blacklaws

Christina Blacklaws: 'Flexibility should never come at the expense of protection'

Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: 'The Solicitors Regulation Authority appears to be pursuing a deregulatory agenda based on flawed premises and at the expense of consumers. The misguided proposals now being considered by the oversight regulator fail the litmus tests for regulation: they jeopardise the public interest and risk weakening the rule of law.'

The SRA's proposals include a rule change to allow freelance solicitors to act outside the protections of a recognised sole practice. The Society says it is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect clients to understand the difference between a recognised sole practice and a sole solicitor. Another change would allow solicitors to deliver non-reserved legal services from unregulated entities, which the Society says would remove or reduce protections such as mandatory professional indemnity insurance, access to the compensation fund and legal professional privilege.

Blacklaws added: 'The proposals are not supported by robust impact assessments or cost-benefit analysis appropriate for rule changes that will fundamentally change the legal services landscape. We urge the LSB to reject the SRA’s ill-conceived scheme to create a dangerously complex marketplace for legal services. Flexibility for solicitors should never come at the expense of protection for consumers.'

The LSB has four weeks to consider the SRA's proposals, though it could extend that period to 90 days.