Around 60% of non-practising solicitors have paid £20 to remain on the roll for the next year after the first exercise to update it since 2014.
Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) chief executive Paul Philip said it had given some 60,000 solicitors eight weeks to apply and 31,000 applications had been received by the 28 May deadline and a further 5,000 afterwards.
Non-practising solicitors completed an annual enrolment form and paid a fee until 2014, when the procedure, “seen as burdensome” according to the SRA, was discontinued,
In a consultation last year, the SRA said the two “key reasons” for returning to the previous system were GDPR and its modernised IT system, which made the process “considerably less arduous”.
It decided to go ahead at a fee of £20 – the same as it had been in 2014.
Speaking to the media yesterday following the SRA’s latest board meeting, Mr Philip stressed that this was not a money-making exercise for the regulator and non-practising solicitors would not be cross-subsidising their practising colleagues.
The £20 went towards the software development costs and the income would only cover these after five or six years, he said, adding that the fee would be reviewed every year.
Well-known legal journalist Joshua Rozenberg, a non-practising solicitor himself, has written that he does not intend to pay the fee and characterised his impending removal from the roll as being ‘struck off’.
Mr Philip stressed that this was not the case for those who did not apply – it was “a personal choice, not a regulatory choice” to be removed from the roll.
His report to the board meeting earlier this month said the SRA had carried out “an extensive contact strategy to ensure that our data for those solicitors on the roll was as up to date as possible” and then communicated directly with them and more broadly on social media and elsewhere about the application process being live.
“Following a short period to collate the data, we will then issue removal notices to those customers who have not responded,” he said.
Mr Philip added that the feedback on the process has been “overwhelmingly positive”.