Tuesday, August 20, 2019

SRA Standards & Regulations Update

The SRA has started to issue some long-awaited guidance on its new Standards & Regulations which come into force on 25th November 2019.

Whilst this is currently limited at present, it is hoped that guidance on the core Standards & Regulations (Firms and Solicitors), and Accounts Standards & Regulations, will follow shortly.

New ethics guidance

Issued on 23rd July 2019, the new ethics guidance includes advice on Principle 5 (act with integrity) and Principle 6 (act in a way that encourages equality, diversity and inclusion). The acting with integrity guidance highlights when the SRA are likely to take action for lack of integrity, such as where there has been a wilful or reckless disregard of standards, rules, legal requirements and obligations or ethics and where the firm or individual has taken unfair advantage of clients or third parties or allowed others to do so. A follow-on section of example cases where the SRA has taken disciplinary action against the solicitor(s) involved for acting without integrity adds further meat to the bones.

Further guidance is awaited on the new core Principle 4 (act with honesty); the only comment thus far is that the concept of integrity is wider than just acting dishonestly, and it is possible to behave without integrity without necessarily being dishonest.

The guidance on acting in a way that encourages equality, diversity and inclusion sets out the obligations to comply with The Equality Act 2010, as a minimum, and explains what is expected of you and your employees/colleagues in terms of taking an inclusive approach and implementing relevant policies and procedures. Examples are given of what your firm may wish to do to evidence compliance with this Principle, such as putting together a comprehensive policy statement and monitoring and analysing the diversity of staff and clients.

The SRA has also issued guidance on client care letters, Registered Foreign Lawyers, the not for profit sector and unregulated organisations, all of which are effective from 25th November, aside from the note on client care letters which is effective now. From our experience in reviewing client care letters, you would benefit from familiarising yourself with the contents of this new guidance and ensuring that your firm’s client care letters are as the SRA would expect to see.

We will continue to update you on developments in future newsfeed articles and in our monthly compliance webinars.

The guidance notes referred to can be accessed via: https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/guidance/guidance.page. Further guidance and support materials are expected to be published over the coming months.

How we can help

To assist you and your firm in preparing for the new Standards & Regulations, we are producing a new template Firm Handbook which will be compliant with the new Standards & Regulations, Lexcel, and CQS. This will be made available ahead of 25th November. In addition, we have prepared bespoke training courses on the Standards & Regulations (Firms & Solicitors) and the SRA Accounts Standards & Regulations 2019, which are intended for you and all of your firm’s staff.

We are also hosting a series of three, not to be missed, webinars on the Standards & Regulations which aim to help firms prepare for the new regime by providing real world case studies and scenarios. The first webinar on 8th August was very well received and started to get attendees thinking about how the changes could affect them and their firms. The second webinar is due to take place on 12th September and the third on 10th October 2019. To register, please visit our Events page at: https://riliance.co.uk/events. If you missed the first webinar and would like access to the recording, please contact a member of our sales team on 01829 731 200 or email info@riliance.co.uk.

As always, we welcome queries from you if you have access to our compliance helpline, where you may require additional assistance in preparing for the upcoming changes. For further information on any of these services, please contact our team on 01829 731 200 or email support@riliance.co.uk