Slow Progress? An Update On The Legal Services Act

Author:Mr Nick Learoyd
Profession:Smith & Williamson

The SRA continues to make progress despite delays in introducing the Legal Services Act.

One could be forgiven for thinking that four years later, the structures envisaged in the Legal Services Act 2007 might have been put in place. But despite earlier assurances by the key bodies involved, including the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the Legal Services Board (LSB) and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), law firms will not be able to apply to become alternative business structures from 6 October 2011, as originally planned.

The fact that no revised date has been set is clearly frustrating, but this is because the MoJ needs to bring forward legislation to enact the Statutory Instrument. This will need to be scheduled into the parliamentary timetable, the consensus being that it might happen in late autumn.

SRA: encouraging engagement

The assumption remains that the LSB will formally appoint the SRA as the licensing authority, having already approved its application. Subject to parliamentary timetabling, the SRA should be open to receiving applications in early 2012.

In the meantime, the SRA has set up its alternative business structure team and issued significant guidance on the expected process and requirements. For firms with concrete plans, the SRA is actively encouraging engagement at this early stage. These discussions remain informal, but early engagement allows firms to address some of the SRA's potential issues and concerns and may, in turn, speed up their formal application come 2012.

Outcomes-focused regulation

Outcomes-focused regulation is a principles-based system that does away with many of the prescriptive detailed rules under...

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