Monthly Archives: April 2015

SRA publishes version 14 of the Handbook

The fourteenth version of the Handbook was published on 30 April 2015.

The changes contained in Version 14 came into effect on 30 April 2015 and are summarised in these release notes. The notes give a brief update only and you will need to refer to the Handbook itself for full details. Any sets of rules or regulations not referred to remain substantially unchanged in this version.

There are three groups of changes in Version 14:

  • Changes have been made to the SRA Higher Rights of Audience Regulations 2011 to remove the transitional arrangements which have expired. We retain the power to waive any of the provisions contained within them, but this has been extended to the regulations in general.
  • The SRA Authorisation Rules for Legal Services Bodies and Licensable Bodies 2011 and SRA Handbook Glossary 2012 have been amended to remove all remaining transitional arrangements for the authorisation of sole practitioners. This is pending the implementation of a S69 Order, which came into force on 6 April 2015. Following implementation, sole practitioners will not require an annual endorsement on their PC. This will be replaced with an authorisation that does not need to be renewed annually.
  • Changes have been made to the SRA Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (Crime) Regulations 2013 to allow us to retain greater flexibility and control as to when to implement revised registration timetables for QASA and to remove an administrative requirement on solicitors.

SRA Authorisation Rules for Legal Services Bodies and Licensable Bodies 2011

Rules 27.1 (c) and (d) and 27.3 have both been deleted so to remove all remaining transitional provisions for the authorisation of sole practitioners in the SRA Handbook.

SRA Higher Rights of Audience Regulations 2011

Regulations 11.1 and 11.2 have both been deleted. These contained the transitional arrangements for higher rights advocacy qualification.

The references to “transitional arrangements” within the headings for Part 5 and Regulation 11 have both been replaced with “waiver”.

SRA Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (Crime) Regulations 2013

Regulations 8.1 has been amended to remove the requirement for any solicitor to submit evidence that they have been assessed by an approved assessment organisation at Level 2a.

Regulation 8.2 has been amended to clarify that the SRA will prescribe the timeframe for when those solicitors who have recently obtained Higher Rights of Audience (Crime) need to apply for reaccreditation.

Regulations 13.1 and 14.1 have been amended to clarify that full accreditation will be subject to the manner prescribed by the SRA.

Regulations 21.2 and 21.3 have been amended to clarify that the original registration and implementation timetable will be replaced by a new timetable prescribed by the SRA.

SRA Handbook Glossary 2012

The definition of “principal” has been amended to remove a reference to the transitional arrangements for the authorisation of sole practitioners which no longer apply.

“Be vigilant” – SRA warns after new bank scam

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) continues to call for extra vigilance across the sector after a small north east conveyancing firm became the latest victim of telephone bank scammers.

The firm lost a significant amount from its account and the crime follows two further serious telephone scams in March this year. In each case the callers have used a technique known as “social engineering” to gain the confidence of those they call and obtain information to access accounts.

They ask for “challenge and response” codes, which are then used to authenticate payments and in some cases digital banking log on and password credentials. Four firms were targeted in this way in November last year.

Robert Loughlin, Executive Director of Operations & Quality, said: “We are very concerned about this continuing activity. The fraudsters are highly sophisticated in their approach and their script makes them sound as though they are genuinely who they say they are.

“Solicitors throughout England and Wales are raising this serious issue as one of their major concerns in general discussions with us. We are aware of firms of all sizes receiving calls, this isn’t something that affects just one sector of the profession.

“All firms should ensure that their own internal systems for guarding against scams are up-to-date and that staff know how to implement them.”

Banks will never ask for passwords or account related details over the phone. If employees are concerned about the authenticity of a caller, they should terminate the call and make further enquiries. To validate callers, firms should contact somebody they already know at the bank, using a separate telephone line, eg a mobile line. There have been examples of the scammers keeping telephone lines open, to intercept an outgoing call.

The SRA put out a paper to accompany the 2013/14 Risk Outlook spring update in February last year which outlines the ways con artists could attempt to obtain office or client account details and other sensitive information.

SRA guidance on offering inducements updated

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has updated its guidance on offering inducements in order to reflect the government ban on their use to attract clients in personal injury cases.

The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 introduces the ban which comes into effect today (Monday 13 April). It is in response to concerns that inducements for handling personal injury cases fuel a “compensation culture”.

The Claims Management Regulator had already implemented a ban for claims management companies (CMCs) in April 2013.

Crispin Passmore, SRA Executive Director for Policy, said: “Our revised guidance on handling personal injury cases will help firms to ensure they remain compliant with the new law. Past experience suggests the profession has always prioritised making successful claims on behalf of their clients and our guidance underpins that approach.”

The SRA’s guidance on offering inducements was originally published in June 2013 following a review by Lord Young in 2012. The review set out what solicitors could or could not do when offering inducements, and reminded them of their obligations in the Code of Conduct around publicity.

The new ban is limited to personal injury claims only. The SRA guidance also covers other areas where inducements to make a claim or seek legal services are not prohibited.

The updated guidance is available here:

Go to the guidance

Version 13 of Handbook published

The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s Competence Statement, which defines the standards required for a solicitor to practise, is among important changes made in Version 13 of the SRA Handbook published today.

The Competence Statement is a key part of changes made to introduce the new approach to continuing competence for solicitors who wish to adopt it from 1 April on a voluntary basis. A toolkit to support solicitors who want to adopt the new approach on a voluntary basis has also been launched on the SRA website today www.sra.org.uk/toolkit. Every solicitor will need to adopt the new approach from 1 November 2016.

Other major changes in Version 13 of the Handbook include:

  • Changes to the SRA Compensation Fund Rules 2011 and the SRA Handbook Glossary 2012 setting out the eligibility criteria for individuals who are able to apply for a grant out of the SRA’s Compensation Fund.
  • A new outcome which requires firms to assess and purchase an appropriate level of professional indemnity insurance and changes to the Minimum Terms and Conditions of cover (Appendix 1 of the SRA Indemnity Insurance Rules 2013) relating to the variation of multi-year policies, clarification of run-off cover and the introduction of a sanctions exclusion.
  • Removal of transitional provisions relating to sole practitioners, ahead of changes to be made in November 2015 whereby sole practitioners will no longer require an annual endorsement on their PC. This will be replaced with an authorisation that does not need to be renewed annually.
  • New rules enabling entities owned or managed by Registered European Lawyers (RELs) to be able to operate within England and Wales without necessarily needing to do so through an SRA authorised body.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “These changes are a significant step towards meeting our commitment to reform our regulatory model, encouraging growth in the sector, and ensuring our approach is proportionate. “Our Competence Statement has been developed with extensive input from the public, solicitors and training providers. It will play a key role in ensuring consumers can continue to rely on the quality of legal services they receive from solicitors.”

The Handbook can be accessed here:

Go to the Handbook

All changes to the handbook were agreed by the SRA Board between November 2014 and March 2015 this year. A consultation on the assessment framework for the Competence Statement will take place later this year. The SRA is already engaging with stakeholders on this matter.

The Competence Statement can be accessed here:

Go to the Competence Statement

The toolkit can be found here:

Go to the toolkit