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Solicitors | Modern Practice. Traditional Values

Legal Access for Clients – Update

Emma Weir

7th November 2018

On 6 November 2018 the Legal Services Board (LSB) approved plans that were previously announced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to allow solicitors to practise from unauthorised businesses. This followed a major shake-up of regulations with the aim of cutting the complexity of the rules governing where solicitors can work, in favour of providing merely an overview of obligations and standards.

The changes, which also allow self-employed solicitors to operate on a freelance basis, are hugely controversial. They create different levels of protection and redress for the public and the Law Society has branded the move a ‘serious error’.

The President of the Law Society, Christina Blacklaws, has said “the regulators have sacrificed the best interests of the public they exist to protect. They have ignored unprecedented levels of opposition from consumer bodies, legal experts and the extensive evidence of the risks of deregulations of this kind.”

The LSB concluded that most of the changes did not raise grounds for refusal. The Board accepted that the changes may present some risk but considered the potential benefits could promote access to justice and did not consider that there was sufficient evidence of substantial risk to refuse these changes.

LSB Chair Dr Helen Phillips said “the Board welcomes the SRA’s move to modernise its regulatory arrangements and make them more accessible. We recognise one aspect of this package – the changes to permit solicitors to provide unreserved legal services from unregulated firms – presents some potential risks.”

The Law Society argues that flexibility for solicitors should never come at the expense of protection and clarity for consumers and there is no evidence that deregulation will achieve access to justice. Christina Blacklaws states “on the contrary, the most vulnerable are the most likely to fall foul of a less-shackled marketplace for legal services.”

At Griffith Smith we agree with the Law Society. As solicitors, we have to guarantee the protection of our clients, and the regulations are in place for this very reason. They provide consistency across practices in England and Wales and certainty and reassurance for our clients. Trust is an essential part of our business, and we hold our clients’ best interests very close to our hearts.

Author: Emma Weir, LLP Partner 

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