SRA lays out first changes to STaRs since 2019 launch

Philip: Removing unnecessary burdens

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is set to make the first changes to its Standards and Regulations (STaRs) since the rules were introduced three years ago.

A consultation issued this week proposed a series of minor amendments that follow feedback from the profession.

“In some instances, we have found that the original policy intention is not being met by the rules,” the consultation said. “In others, the wording in our rules needs further clarification to achieve the intended outcome.”

In some cases, the amendments formalise positions already clarified through guidance or waivers to specific rules granted to individual firms.

The SRA said the amendments focused on changes which remove or amend “impractical or unduly time-consuming requirements, while still making sure the public are protected”.

Some of the proposed changes would:

  • Make it clear that, in order to transfer funds from client account into the firm’s business account, the bill, or other written notification of costs, must be for costs that have already been incurred, and not in advance of the work being done;
  • Make it clear that, where a firm has paid for a client’s disbursements itself, there is no requirement to deliver a bill or written notification of costs before moving money from the client account;
  • Allow law firms and individual solicitors operating a client’s bank or building society account to undertake reconciliation every 16 weeks (rather than five);
  • Allow solicitors to provide pro bono services outside of their firm or organisation without having to notify the SRA, although where they are reserved legal activities they will still need to have practised for a minimum of three years since admission and have adequate and appropriate insurance;
  • Allow solicitors to administer oaths or statutory declarations outside their normal practice without regarding them as freelance solicitors, provided these are the only reserved legal services they handle whilst practising in this way, do not charge more than the statutory fee, and do not provide these services as a business.

SRA chief executive Paul Phillip said: “When we introduced the new rules, the aim was to get rid of unnecessary and burdensome prescription and focus on what matters – high professional standards.

“Feedback so far suggests the approach of putting more trust in a solicitor’s professional judgement is working well and has been positively received. Firms have also really valued the extra flexibility our rules allowed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There are, however, a few small areas where we have had feedback that the rules would benefit from amendment to make them work better in practice. We have listened and these proposed changes will help make sure our rules aren’t creating unnecessary burdens or having unintended consequences.”

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