The fourth edition of the SRA Handbook in less than 10 months was published yesterday.
The latest version includes the delay in the introduction of the compliance officer regime, and it has emerged separately that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has given the Legal Services Board (LSB) a guarantee that there will be no further hold-ups.
The latest edition of the Handbook contains three changes. The first deals with the controversial change to rule 4 of the practice framework rules, dealing with when in-house legal teams need to become alternative business structures (ABSs).
This requires in-house lawyers to consider whether section 15(4) of the Legal Services Act 2007 requires them to become an ABS; the section says in-house lawyers offering reserved legal activities to “the public or a section of the public” must do so from an ABS, but these terms have not been defined.
The second change deals with the scheme for compliance officers for legal practice (COLPs) and for finance and administration (COFAs). This was due to go live on 1 November, but the Handbook confirms that this has now been put back to 1 January 2013, driven by the delays in opening up the process for firms to nominate their COLPs and COFAs.
The deadline for this was originally 31 March, so that they could be approved by 31 October, but instead only opened on 31 May. It closes on 31 July. An SRA spokesman told Legal Futures that “a very significant number of firms have already completed or partially completed their nominations. We are very pleased with progress and firms have told us that they find it is easy to complete the form”.
Approving the SRA’s application to change the authorisation rules to facilitate the new date, the LSB said: “It is regrettable that the slippage to the timetable for completion of the SRA’s authorisation process for COLPs and COFAs, which necessitated this regulatory change, occurred.
“The LSB has received assurance, in writing, from the SRA that the extension of the grace period to 31 December 2012 will provide sufficient time for the SRA to complete its processes. The board hopes that the SRA will identify how it can strengthen its project management processes to guard against such delays in future.”
The final change is the inclusion of the SRA Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (Crime) Notification Regulations 2012, an interim measure to ensure that all solicitors wishing to conduct advocacy under the upcoming scheme notify the SRA. Regulations to implement the scheme in full will be made in due course.