Third edition of SRA Handbook in seven months goes live


Immigration: change ensures ABSs can handle work

The third edition of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Handbook in just seven months has gone live after being approved by the Legal Services Board (LSB).

As revealed on Legal Futures, a fourth edition in less than a year since the Handbook went live on 6 October 2011 should be necessary in June.

The SRA said the updates have been necessary for a number of reasons, including the delayed designation of the SRA as a licensing authority for alternative business structures (ABSs) and changes borne out of experience of how the new outcomes-focused regime is working.

David Hackett, SRA regulatory policy manager, said: “In an ideal world, further editions would not have been necessary so soon after the 2011 Handbook came into force. However, in reality these amendments have been largely unavoidable given the way we’ve had to develop the Handbook in the context of our licensing authority application. Our intention in future is to limit editions of the Handbook to two per year.”

The key changes in the third edition include a glossary that, so far as possible, applies common definitions across all rules; amendments to ensure that authorisation to provide immigration advice extends to ABSs; various additions to the education and training regulations, such as granting accreditation for prior learning to legal practice course applicants; and an obligation on solicitors who are also insolvency practitioners to comply with the Insolvency Code of Practice.

Other amendments include clarification on conflict of interest matters overseas – if compliance with the code of conduct would result in a breach of local law or regulation, the outcomes can be disregarded to the extent necessary to comply with the local law or regulation.

A range of other changes arise from experience of how the rules have worked since last October. In particular the practice framework rules have been amended so that solicitor involvement in a body owning an ABS does not automatically mean that the solicitor is ‘practising’ in that body, and nor that the body itself requires authorisation.

There are also amendments that deal with SRA practising regulations to mirror existing provisions in the authorisation rules, such as the requirement to appoint a compliance officer for legal practice and for finance and administration. This is necessary because the practising regulations continue to apply to the recognition of sole practitioners, so that as far as possible the same standards of the regulation apply to the different types of firm the SRA regulates.

The Handbook, which includes a ‘history of’ facility, can be found here.

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