Non-practising solicitors will have to apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) every year once again and pay an annual charge of £30-£40 if they want to stay on the roll from April 2023, the regulator has proposed.
The two “key reasons” for returning to the previous system discontinued in 2014 were the GDPR and the SRA’s modernised IT system, which made the process “considerably less arduous”.
The SRA said it stopped updating the roll on an annual basis eight years ago because it was “not using the information and the annual process was seen as burdensome for solicitors”. A consultation found strong support for it too.
In a fresh consultation published yesterday, it said: “We now propose to reintroduce a process to check, update and maintain data held on the roll annually.”
The GDPR required that “information we hold about individuals is current, and the information on the roll about solicitors without practising certificates has become progressively more out of date since 2014”.
Meanwhile the SRA’s “modernised IT system, particularly the user interface” would make the process of maintaining personal records “considerably less arduous for solicitors than it was”.
“Recent events” had demonstrated the value of maintaining accurate data about non-practising solicitors “so that we can contact them about matters that might affect them”, such as the future of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund.
The regulator said its preference was for an annual renewal exercise which “ensures the most accurate data is maintained and it becomes part of our annual practising certificate renewal regime”.
Running the exercise less frequently would “negate the benefits” of keeping the data up-to-date.
To pay for the cost of the annual exercise and maintenance of the records, the SRA said it would reintroduce a “small” administration charge.
“This is to cover the cost of the exercise and is intended to be proportionate. We are proposing an indicative amount in the range of £30-40. The amount will be confirmed in light of responses to this consultation and once our proposals have been approved.” Back in 2014, the fee was £25.
But with currently around 60,000 non-practising solicitors on the roll, a fee of £40 would raise £2.4m for the regulator, raising questions about whether the exercise would cost that much.
Solicitors without practising certificates who work within certain types of organisations, such as government agencies, will be exempt from the process and so the number paying will be lower.
The SRA said it would make “every effort” to contact solicitors without practising certificates currently on the roll.
“In the event that we receive no communication after repeated attempts to contact them, we will remove their names from the roll.
“If individuals subsequently contact us and wish to be restored to the roll, they will need to pay the £30-40 administration charge and we will carry out a character and suitability assessment, for which there is a further £39 charge.”