Times Photographer Jack Hill
Plans to allow newly qualified solicitors to set up their own practices would put consumers at risk, the Law Society has said in an escalation of its row with the profession’s watchdog.
The society, which represents 130,000 solicitors in England and Wales, has fired a broadside at the Solicitors Regulation Authority over proposals to allow solicitors to deliver non-reserved legal services from unregulated businesses.
The proposals would also remove the “qualified to supervise” rule that requires legal services businesses to include an individual who meets specific qualification criteria. This would effectively ditch the requirement for solicitors to wait three years after qualifying before launching their own practices.
The Law Society called on the SRA to “have an 11th hour change of heart”. Joe Egan, its president, accused regulators of “ploughing ahead with proposed changes to its handbook that would see different solicitors subject to different regulations depending on where they practise”.
He added that a “new tier of solicitors, working in unregulated outfits, wouldn’t have to have the same insurance, wouldn’t pay into the solicitors’ compensation fund and wouldn’t inevitably afford their clients legal professional privilege, which guarantees communications between client and solicitor are confidential.”
Egan also criticised the plan to allow newly qualified solicitors to set up their own practices. “Removal of the rules which prevent solicitors establishing their own firms immediately after they qualify could leave both clients and newly qualified solicitors without appropriate support,” he said.