Law firm owned by 18 partners’ companies among new waivers

Fire authority: Police in-house team can provide legal services

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has issued 23 waivers from its rules under a new policy – 18 of which have gone to sole practitioner law firms which together make up regional firm’s partnership.

Others to benefit from the new regime include in-house teams and alternative business structure Riverview Law.

The SRA has introduced a new, streamlined waiver policy, which removes the requirement that there be “exceptional circumstances” justifying a waiver from the SRA Handbook.

As part of this, it has begun publishing online the waivers it has granted from late July onwards on a new register.

An SRA report in the summer showed that it granted 537 waivers in 2015/16, 585 in 2016/17 and 232 in the first six months of 2017/18. Around 80% related to accountants’ reports.

Sills & Betteridge, an 11-office firm based in Lincolnshire and surrounding areas, has a corporate ownership structure.

Each of the partner companies have been granted a waiver from the requirement to have a COLP and COFA.

The regulator said: “Granting a waiver avoids the unnecessary burden of authorising non-working corporate manager owner recognised bodies in order for the body beneath to remain a recognised body.”

The other waivers allowed since late July allow:

  • In-house solicitors of Schneider Investment Associates to provide legal services to two subsidiary companies within a joint venture arrangement;
  • Derbyshire Constabulary’s in-house legal department to provide legal services to Northampton Fire and Rescue Service, reflecting the requirement under the Policing and Crime Act 2017 for greater collaboration between emergency services;
  • Virtual law firm Laker Legal to use a PO Box number address as a practising address; Companies House has also accepted this as its registered address. The SRA said: “The firm has an administration centre in Lancaster to which all correspondence is sent under the Royal Mail’s PO Box service. This is not currently accessible to clients or members of the public, but its existence is not hidden”;
  • Registered European lawyers working at Perez Llorca, a foreign practice owned by two Spanish law firms, to provide non-reserved legal services without needing to be authorised. EU law firms are able to set up branches in England and Wales without having to restructure where they do not carry on reserved legal activities. But as this is a standalone firm, rather than a branch, those rules do not apply without the waiver; and
  • Riverview Law, now owned by Big Four accountants EY, to have professional indemnity insurance to the SRA’s requirements but from a non-participating insurer.

We reported in July about eight unregulated businesses that have been granted waivers that allow their employed solicitors to provide legal services to third parties in the SRA’s innovation space.

Representatives of two of them, Which? Legal Services and Hybrid Legal, will be speaking at next month’s Legal Futures Innovation Conference. Click here for all the details.

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