The Solicitors Regulation Auhtority has announced plans to lift a regulatory burden on sole practitioners by allowing them to receive ‘lifetime licences’.
Solicitors who wish to operate as sole practitioners currently have to apply for their status to be recognised every year as part of the renewals process.
But the SRA has now ordered an approach consistent to that applied to all other types of practice in a policy statement published today.
According to the regulator’s figure, there were 2,967 sole practitioner firms at the start of this month, making up 28% of the profession in England and Wales.
Agnieszka Scott, SRA director of policy, said: ‘Sole practitioners currently have to go through an additional administrative exercise each year that other firms do not. By removing this process, it reduces the regulatory burden by saving solicitors and the SRA time.
‘Sole practitioners still need to have a PC, so there are no actual protections added by this piece of bureaucracy. We made a commitment in 2012 to remove unnecessary processes where we could, and this would be another step towards reducing any regulatory burden.’
The removal of the annual renewal was first discussed in a consultation in 2010 and received widespread approval, but the idea was put on the back-burner as other issues were a greater priority at the time.
It will still need to be approved by the Legal Services Board, which is currently consulting on the same issue.
If the change goes ahead, sole practitioners would not need to have the ‘sole solicitor endorsement’ condition added to their practising certificate. They would still need to apply for a PC, so removing the need to apply for the condition would not increase any risks, the SRA said.