The Solicitors Regulation Authority is expected to introduce new regulations for in-house lawyers from April.
According to a Legal Services Board paper published today, the SRA is reviewing its rules for solicitors in non-authorised entities. It intends to consult on its plans in the autumn and implement its new regulatory approach from April 2016.
Earlier this year, SRA executive director of policy Crispin Passmore (pictured) told local government lawyers the regulator would consult on making changes to the SRA Handbook in the autumn, including a ‘fundamental review’ of practice framework 4 relating to in-house practice.
The SRA outlined its plans as part of its response to a LSB discussion paper, Are regulatory restrictions in practising rules for in-house lawyers jusitified?, which was published in February.
The LSB said today it received 18 responses to the discussion paper, including five from legal services regulators.
Summarising the responses, it included the Institute for Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’ comment that many of its members would be reluctant to see current restrictions for in-house lawyers removed.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel stressed the risk of consumer confusion where in-house lawyers are allowed to deliver unreserved legal services to consumers.
Responses from the Law Society and charity LawWorks noted that if changes to the rules for in-house lawyers were made, they should not restrict or deter pro bono services.
The LSB said ‘this reflected concern expressed by several respondents that regulatory rules had a negative impact on in-house lawyers undertaking pro bono work.’
LawWorks said current arrangements were ‘so unclear’ they acted as a deterrent for in-house lawyers. Lawyers in Charities stated that it thought rules governing the provision of pro bono advice should be relaxed, ‘specifically for its provision of advice to other charities’.
The LSB said consistency was a ‘clear theme’ among all the responses.
The LSB is expected to publish its conclusions after reporting its final recommendations to its board in the autumn.