SRA to stay on report over ABS licensing

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18 December 2014

Chris Kenny

Kenny: “Changes to the authorisation of MDPs are yet to bed in”

The Legal Services Board (LSB) still has “concerns” about the way the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) approves applications for alternative business structures (ABSs) and will not be ending its monitoring for the time being, it has emerged.

In his final report as chief executive of the LSB, Chris Kenny said last month that there had been “significant staff turnover” at the SRA, with “no director for authorisation in place, a fairly new manager of firm-based authorisation, and new officers responsible for authorisation.

“Changes to the authorisation of MDPs are yet to bed in. In addition, little has been done to address the concern that information required from applicants by the SRA is not proportionate or targeted to what the Legal Services Act actually stipulates.”

Mr Kenny said the SRA had promised to “review these issues”, but it was clear from a meeting last month that the “scope or timetable for such a review, or its expected deliverables, had yet to be addressed”.

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He said he had made it clear to Paul Philip, chief executive of the SRA, that monitoring would have to remain in place “until this is progressed”.

It emerged at the beginning of the month that the LSB was considering ending its practice of monitoring by the end of this year after the average time taken by the SRA to approve applications fell to three months.

Work in progress fell from 142 ABS applications in January 2013 – when the LSB began its monitoring exercise over concerns about how long the process was taking – to only 30 in October 2014.

In his November report, Mr Kenny accepted that the SRA had addressed many of its original concerns on ABS authorisation, by including an approach to “triaging applications so that they are deemed complete sooner” and greater availability of ABS applications forms and support materials.

The outgoing chief executive added that the SRA had also carried out and published research into the experience of ABS applicants, and made changes to the authorisation of MDPs.

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