The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is set to press ahead with plans to stop the annual exercise of checking whether non-practising solicitors want to stay on the roll, despite strong opposition from the Law Society.
The regulator said the process takes “several weeks to complete, is time-consuming and incurs cost both for the applicant and the SRA”; however, its regulatory value is “low”.
A report to Wednesday’s meeting of the SRA board – where a final decision will be made – said its recent consultation on the issue received 138 responses, “the overwhelming majority from individual solicitors supporting the proposal”.
The change, which would then be subject to approval by the Legal Services Board, would mean that from 2015, solicitors without practising certificates would remain on the roll without the need for an annual application. However, in order to keep the roll up-to-date, the SRA would retain the power to carry out the process at such times as it may decide in the future.
The SRA said there were various other methods it could use to keep the roll up-to-date – with registrars obliged to inform it on the death of a solicitor – while there was “minimal” risk of increasing fraud “since it is of greater advantage to a potential fraudster to impersonate a practising solicitor”.
The Law Society argued that the duty to keep the roll goes further than simply keeping a list of people who once qualified as a solicitor and have not asked to be removed from it.
It suggested that if this was truly a regulatory function, then the roll needs to be as up to date and accurate as possible and the SRA needs to be able to contact those who are on it and therefore subject to SRA’s jurisdiction.
The paper said: “We have held productive discussions with the Law Society to assuage their fear that we will no longer keep the roll in good order. We have also discussed with them how they might develop their own register of members for their commercial and representative purposes and how we might collaborate or support them in that endeavor.”