Solicitors Regulation Authority Performs Major Policy U-Turn

Solicitors Regulation Authority Performs Major Policy U-Turn

Non-practising lawyers will need to take notice of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s announcement on 22nd March 2022 after the regulator made clear its intention to re-instate the obligation on such lawyers to confirm in writing expressly their intention to restore their place on the prestigious roll of solicitors. A non-practising solicitor is defined as one who does not hold a practising certificate due to being:

  • not presently practising
  • retired
  • working in an in-house role.

If the new rules are introduced, they will affect non-practising solicitors who will be required to complete and submit an application form which will need to be accompanied by a £30 to £40 payment on a yearly-basis. If a non-practising solicitor fails to comply with the new rules the Solicitors Regulation Authority has made it clear that the relevant person will forfeit their title of non-practising solicitor and the related perks of the privileged position.

Why Is The Solicitors Regulation Authority Making This Change?

The SRA appear to be making the changes to the legal requirements and putting these obligations on non-practising solicitors. Chairperson of the SRA Anna Bradley commented that the solicitors roll is not immune from data protection requirements. The Solicitors Regulation Authority has duties under this legislation to keep information up to the minute and correct. In terms of data processing the Regulator has legal obligations to process it fairly. In enacting these changes the Solicitors Regulation Authority appears to be solving a problem of a small handful of solicitors meeting the above definition of a non-practising solicitor but who have apparently not updated the information held by the SRA for a long period of time.

How Should Affected Lawyers Prepare For the New Changes

Lawyers in this position will need to be watching for correspondence from the Solicitors Regulation Authority from 20th May 2022 onwards as they will more than likely be receiving a warning about the new reforms, a request to comply with the new re-registration process, complete the relevant application form and ensure their details are kept up-to-date on the roll of solicitors.

Will Any Lawyers In This Situation Be Exempt From The New Changes?

The SRA have sought to reassure lawyers that a small proportion from certain government, in-house and miscellaneous organisations will be excused from the re-registration requirements. Following this news some lawyers will no doubt breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Historical Perspective

However, for all the good intentions to comply with the law there is an apparent elephant in the room. This is the reason why the requirement to keep the Roll of Solicitors updated was abolished back in 2014. At that time a document entitled “Annual Keeping of the Roll Exercise” was published. In that document it clearly made it clear that a definite policy decision was made to ‘reserve the right to the SRA the power to carry out the exercise at such times as it considered to be appropriate”. However, they now seemingly have the opposite view and have performed a major policy U-turn.

In the document several reasons for removing the requirements were promulgated such as:

  • getting rid of the ‘regulatory burden’
  • the previous system was introduced and was designed to have a positive impact on the affected non-practising solicitors as it allowed them to enjoy the benefit of a place on the roll without paying the annual cost and
  • ‘saving costs and time’ for many thousands of individual lawyers affected by the process

However, this time around these reasons appear to have been forgotten and it is like the previous review never happened. Lawyers need to be watching this space from May 2022 as changes are afoot.

The Legists Content Team

ASSESSING FIRMS

#Allen&Overy #Clifford ChanceLLP #FreshfieldBrukhausDeringerLLP #Slaughter&May #Latham&Watkins #NortonRoseFulbright #Shearman&SterlingLLP #Simmons&Simmons

THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES

[1] Solicitors Regulation Authority – SRA to consult on annual ‘keeping of the roll’ exercise’ – 22 March 2022 - SRA | SRA to consult on annual 'keeping of the roll' exercise | Solicitors Regulation Authority

[2] Solicitors Regulation Authority – 22 March 2022 - SRA | Restoring the annual keeping of the roll exercise | Solicitors Regulation Authority

[3] Solicitors Regulation Authority – Restoring the annual keeping of the roll exercise – Consultation – March 2022 - Keeping of the roll - consulation (sra.org.uk)

[4] Solicitors Regulation Authority – ‘Annual Keeping of the Roll Exercise’ - Microsoft Word - 9 Keeping of the Roll Exercise Sept 2014.docx (legalservicesboard.org.uk)

[5] General Data Protection Regulation

[6] Data Protection Act 2018

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