Have you prepared for the SRA changes? LexisNexis is here to help.

On 25th November 2019 the SRA Handbook 2011 was replaced by the SRA Standards and Regulations (STaRs). Headline changes include:

  • two Codes of Conduct - one for law firms, one for individual solicitors
  • ‘outcomes’ and ‘indicative behaviours’ become ‘standards’
  • new breach reporting requirements
  • much shorter Accounts Rules
  • new breed of freelance solicitor
  • freedom for in-house lawyers to provide extensive range of services to external clients
  • The SRA may have stripped out hundreds of pages of rules from the SRA Handbook 2011 but that doesn’t mean it will be taking a lighter-touch approach to regulation. The SRA Standards and Regulations are supplemented by an ever-growing raft of guidance and case studies.

The new regime came into effect on 25th November 2019 and you’ll be expected to comply.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to get to grips with the numerous changes on the horizon and what they mean for you or your law firm, don’t panic - we can help!

LexisNexis is here to help with legal practice management solutions which ensure compliance and profitability. Management solutions in the form of focused tools, advice and resources, packaged and tailored to meet the needs of your practice.

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SRA Changes Project Planner

The SRA Project Planner Practice Note helps you determine the priority for tackling what needs to be done to ensure you are compliant with the changes.

Download the first part of the Practice Note which walks you through information gathering and raising awareness.

The New SRA Rules – What They Mean from a Practical Standpoint

The SRA introduced new standards, that took effect on 25 November 2019, to allow solicitors greater flexibility in how they work and simplify accounting rules. These changes continue in the vein of a less prescriptive approach to regulation by the SRA, while making it easier for the public to gain access to justice and ultimately still safeguarding the interests of consumers. From a practical standpoint though, firms need to think about how they can adhere to the seven principles set out by the SRA. Things like honesty, integrity, upholding public trust and so on are, after all, difficult areas to evidence – especially as they are so open to interpretation.

The risk to solicitors and law firms of course is that this kind of ‘open to interpretation’ regulation can be a double-edged sword – with no right and wrong, lawyers and firms need to think for themselves in terms of how they must act in order to comply in the best interest of the client.

These new rules, which essentially are a framework, will bring about a fair amount of change, and potentially, the best way to ensure compliance is to reduce the seven principles to a simple science. To this end, technology such as case management will play an instrumental role. Firms must leverage their current system to amend and create new processes, as applicable, to ensure compliance.

For instance, to demonstrate that the firm has acted in the best interest of the client, the case management system can be used to record the advice given, by automating and forcing the creation of attendance notes and/or letters, emails and updates at the right points in the case and matter lifecycle. So, in the event of a challenge, the firm can refer to the system for illustrations of best behaviours (date and time stamped) to evidence the considerations of the principle.

Similarly, how firms handle clients’ monies is a key area of consideration in the SRA rules. Processes such as recording receipt of money, ensuring that the funds are transferred into the right bank account, and so on can all be automated.

Establishing processes for maintaining confidentiality must be a focus for law firms. Technology can facilitate ethical walls, especially in situations where there are multiple parties acting on different aspects of the transaction. The case management system is ideal for setting up and maintaining data barriers and recording access trails, all of which are incredibly important to demonstrate compliance.

Fundamentally, case management technology can act as both a guide and an enforcer of regulation, without creating unnecessary friction and interruptions that regulatory compliance can sometimes create. By utilising the technology to embed processes for the seven principles, firms can make compliance par for the cause; and in the event of audits and queries, relatively painlessly provide audit trails and evidence in their defence. In addition to appropriate documentation and transparency, case management can provide the overarching supervision and governance oversight for both the solicitors working on the cases and the clients.

While the industry awaits further guidance from the SRA on these new rules, this is a good time for firms to start reviewing their existing business processes in the context of the new principles. In fact, firms will do well to undertake such process reviews at regular intervals on an ongoing bass. This approach will go a long way in helping establish a compliance posture that will positively impact adherence to other regulations as well – for example security and data protection for the GDPR.

LexisPSL Practice Compliance

LexisPSL Practice Compliance comes with everything you need to get your compliance house in order (and keep it that way), including a raft of practical guidance, tools and templates to help you get ready for the new SRA regulatory regime.

Get all the information you need to keep your firm compliant with the requirements of the new SRA Standards and Regulations – as well as other key legislation and regulation – from a single source. Take action faster with practical guidance and time-saving tools.

Do you want to learn more about how LexisPSL Practice Compliance can help you prepare for the new SRA Standards and Regulations? Get in touch to find out more.

LexisPSL Risk and Compliance

Against a backdrop of shifting regulations, LexisNexis® helps you stay current with comprehensive news, tools and guidance. You’ll be able to manage risk proactively, helping your organisation develop a culture of sound ethics and compliance.

Get in touch to find out more.

Meet our Risk and Compliance Experts

Our in-house risk and compliance team works in partnership with leading practitioners in the sector to ensure that the service focuses on the day-to-day requirements of the practice compliance community. We work with highly regarded practice compliance legal exerts and our consulting editorial board to provide expert practical guidance and advise to practice compliance officers.

Allison Wooddisse, Head of Lexis®PSL Practice Compliance

Allison Wooddisse is a former partner of Shoosmiths, with extensive experience of legal management and practice compliance. She has recently completed an LLM in Corporate Governance, focusing on regulation of the legal sector and the challenges presented by the Legal Services Act.

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