Alternative business structures (ABSs), law firms and sole practitioners looking for authorisation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will for the first time fill in the same form as the regulator steps up its risk-based approach.
Applicants now have to self-assess the likelihood of a wide variety of risks occurring and explain what controls they have in place to prevent them.
The risks identified range from expansion plans for the next year and business process outsourcing, to ‘group contagion’ from being part of a wider organisation and a lack of competence.
It follows criticism of the speed with which the SRA has been dealing with ABS applications, and the merger of the SRA’s authorisation and ABS teams in March. It means that firms, entities and sole practitioners seeking authorisation now follow the same process as ABSs, an alignment that continues with the publication of the single form.
Annette Lovell, SRA director of authorisation, said: “We are making significant improvements to the way in which we approach firm-based authorisation, underpinned by a much stronger focus on assessing risk. We’re already starting to see the impact of these changes which mean that, for example, we are able to deal with lower-risk applications much more quickly.
“This new, single form is another big change for us… [It] is considerably shorter than earlier versions and we hope that this new format will mean that applicants can more easily provide the information we need – which should mean we will ask fewer follow-up questions.”
Those in the process of submitting applications under the old forms have until 12 August to do so.
The form and guidance are available here.