SRA to reinstate annual fee for 60,000 non-practising solicitors

Philip: Data laws have changed

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is to go ahead with plans to reintroduce next April an annual application fee of up to £40 for non-practising solicitors who want to stay on the roll.

The regulator said the fee would be “as low as possible” but would not be fixed until the costs of reintroducing and administering the process, “including associated IT developments”, were finalised.

Non-practising solicitors completed an annual enrolment form and paid a fee until 2014, when the procedure, “seen as burdensome” according to the SRA, was discontinued – with the fee at £20.

With over 60,000 non-practising solicitors currently on the roll, a fee of £40 could raise £2.4m for the regulator.

Launching a consultation in March, the SRA said the two “key reasons” for returning to the previous system were the GDPR and its modernised IT system, which made the process “considerably less arduous”.

It received 503 responses, almost all of them from individuals, with the question which received the highest number of clearly negative responses that on the proposed fee of £30 to £40.

“Some were opposed to being charged at all, while others suggested lower amounts, including the previous amount of £20,” the regulator said.

The SRA said the fee was intended to cover the cost of carrying out administration involved in the enrolment process. “It is not intended to generate income and indeed must not do so.”

If necessary, the regulator said it would “recover all costs, including the overheads, over a longer period of up to five years, rather than the two to three years originally anticipated”.

It went on: “We will confirm the administration charge amount when we are clear of the overall expenditure, including the IT development.

“We anticipate it to be between £20 and £40, but with the cost recovery potentially over an extended timescale, our intention is that it will be towards the lower end of this range.

“We will commit to keeping the charge under review and will adjust it further if the costs reduce over time.”

Paul Philip, chief executive of the SRA, commented: “Since we stopped the previous keeping of the roll exercise, there have been significant changes to data legislation and requirements.

“We now need to reintroduce a process for ensuring all data held on the roll is accurate and up-to-date. Importantly, we are working to make sure that the costs are as low as possible and that the process is straightforward.

“Ahead of this we will be making extensive efforts to get in touch with those on roll to make them aware of the requirements and make sure we have accurate contact information for them, so that they can take part in the exercise if they wish to.”

The SRA added that it would be applying to the Legal Services Board to approve the necessary rule changes.

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