Separate businesses from 1 November 2015 [Archived]
Separate businesses from 1 November 2015 [Archived]

The following Practice Compliance guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Separate businesses from 1 November 2015 [Archived]
  • Delivering legal services via a separate business
  • Maintaining your independence
  • Transparency
  • Referrals, introductions and dividing work
  • Confidentiality
  • Client money and client account
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Practising in a separate business
  • Policing the separate business
  • more

From 1 November 2015, the separate business rules changed fundamentally in an attempt to level the playing field between alternative business structure (ABS) firms and solicitor-owned firms.

This includes fundamental changes to:

  1. which legal services can be provided via a non Solicitors Regulation Authority(SRA)-regulated separate business—pretty much anything apart from immigration and reserved legal activities

  2. the type of services you can offer from your SRA-regulated practice—a variety of non-legal services have been added, eg accountancy services

Chapter 12 of the SRA Code of Conduct must be read in conjunction with SRA Ethics guidance—the separate business rule (SBR), 21 October 2015, which includes a number of sample scenarios, which have been consolidated in Practice Note: Separate businesses: SRA examples 2011 [Archived].

Any reference in this Practice Note to solicitors includes registered European lawyers.

Delivering legal services via a separate business

What is a separate business?

A separate business means a business which:

  1. you own, are owned by, actively participate in or are connected with, and

  2. is not:

    1. authorised by the SRA or another approved regulator

    2. an in-house practice or permitted overseas practice

The definition applies wherever the business is situated and it will therefore catch a non-UK separate business (which is not an SRA-permitted overseas practice).

Most parts of the SRA definition are themselves defined in the SRA glossary, notably 'own', 'owned by', 'actively participate in'