SRA ‘levels playing field’ for law firms

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has moved to “level the playing field” for how law firms operate.

Changes to the Separate Business Rule – which mean that solicitors will be able to own or be connected to separate businesses providing non-reserved legal services – were agreed by the SRA Board on 3 June, following wide-ranging consultation. The rule was originally designed to prevent solicitors having links to separate businesses outside the remit of regulation.

The opening up of the legal market already allows other types of businesses to own law firms. By changing the Separate Business Rule, all law firms can own separate businesses, allowing them to compete on a level playing field with alternative business structures (ABSs).

As part of the same package of reforms, the rules on what activities can be undertaken within solicitors firms have been relaxed, making it easier for those firms to create one-stop shops for professional services.

SRA chief executive Paul Philip said: “We are levelling the playing field for all types of law firms, encouraging innovation and growth, while ensuring appropriate consumer protection. This follows on from changes we made last year to open up the market to different business models and ‘one-stop shop’ services.

“We are now looking into what more we should do to give solicitors even more flexibility in future.”

The changes need the approval of the Legal Services Board. If agreed, they will be part of Version 15 of the Handbook when it goes live on 1 November.

Solicitors considering, or who are interested in exploring, options for the new business ventures will be available as a result of the Separate Business Rule changes – and others that may be introduced in the future – may find it useful to have access to expert advice on issues including tax and accounting implications, business structures and business strategy. For more information on how Moore Thompson can help, please contact us.