SRA COLP/COFA Conference 2019
On 30th October I attended the annual SRA Compliance Officer's Conference at the ICC in Birmingham alongside 1500 others. The numbers attending this event have grown massively over the past few years. The emphasis of the event was the huge changes which are due to come into force on 25th November 2019. Of these, the most dramatic are those which affect the way in which Solicitors are allowed to work.
The most controversial is the creation of two seperate codes of conduct, one for lawyers ane one for businesses. This will enable solicitorsto provide some legal services to the public through unregulated entities. I posted a blog about this back in 2016 -
I am worried about the conflicts that might arise. The SRA's thinking is that there is a need for the profession to be competetive, because most people who need legal help do not consult quaified lawyers. So it will be acceptable for solicitors to work in unregulated businesses so long as the client is made aware of the situation. Whatever concerns we have, this is now just a few weeks away.
Another equally significant change is the birth of the 'freelancer'. Newly Qualified Solicitors will be allowed to work for themslves but will be excluded from carrying out 'reserved' business such as litigation and conveyancing. Solicitors with 3 years experience can offer all areas of work. There are conditions. The solicitor must literally work for themselves so cannot employ anyone, although they can work in a chambers type arrangement where they share outsourced administration. Freelancers will aso need to have suitable and appropriate insurance. This is less stringent than the insurance needed by firms regulated by the SRA. It remains to be seen how the insurance market will respond.
There are also changes to the Solicitors Accounts rules which are slimmed down and emphasise the principles of keeping client money safe, rather than setting out lots of specific technical rules.
All of this is intended to create broad principles within which Solicitors can excercise discretion. It again, remains to be seen what will happen if the SRA disagree with the way that the discretion is excercised.
Overall, it was an extrememly useful day and, as ever, a great opportunity to network with others who work in what can often be a lonely world of compliance!