A pioneering solicitor who came off the roll so she could continue providing housing advice from her unregulated firm has returned to the profession after a seven-year “exile”, in the wake of the changes introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) last November.
Tessa Shepperson said it was a “great relief” to be a solicitor again, after the Standards and Regulations (STaRs) allowed solicitors to practise unreserved legal activities from unregulated firms.
Ms Shepperson, who runs Landlord Law, backed the SRA’s plans to change the rules, which were strongly opposed by the Law Society, and has previously described the former restriction on unregulated firms as “insane”.
She told Legal Futures: “It’s nice to be able to say I am a solicitor again. I did find it quite embarrassing before as I was worried people would think I had to come off the roll because of some sort of misconduct – which is of course not the case.
“After all, it is not a crime to offer a legal service which is not a reserved activity through an unregulated firm – so why should it be a crime for a solicitor to work for and advise the public through one of these firms?”
Ms Shepperson decided in 2013 to close down her law firm, TJ Shepperson, to concentrate on running Landlord Law.
“I had intended to continue as a ‘non-practising solicitor’ but then learned that under the solicitors practising regulations as they then were, I would technically be committing a criminal offence if I gave any telephone or other advice while not part of a ‘regulated firm’.
“The only way I could continue to provide telephone and other advice was to come off the roll and cease being a solicitor altogether. Which was what I did – although I was not happy about it.”
Ms Shepperson said she was “a bit startled” to have to undergo a criminal records check as part of rejoining the roll, “but happily I don’t have any – and now have the certificate to prove it”.
She added: “It will not change the work that I do. However, it means that I can now call myself a solicitor again, which is a great relief. And my seven-year exile from the profession is now over.”
Landlord Law was first launched in 2001 to provide landlord and tenant law information to both parties and has since then become a valuable consumer resource. Now it focuses on residential landlords.
The model of providing premium services for a fee, supported by a wide range of free advice was in its infancy when it went live.
A basic membership subscription for Landlord Law is £25 a month (or £250 for the year), which gives access to agreements, articles, guides, monthly webinars and a discussion forum.
A business level subscription, costing £40 a month (or £350 a year), offers various extra benefits, such as a ‘DIY eviction kit’ and one free telephone advice call with the solicitor.
Last year, Ms Shepperson explained in a blog on Legal Futures how a membership website had changed her life and that she was surprised more solicitors had not followed suit.