New SRA waivers policy – are the rules a moveable feast?

Bronwen Still reports that the SRA published a new waivers policy on 26th June which includes plans for a waivers register. It sets out the circumstances in which waivers of SRA rules will now be granted. Out goes the need to prove “exceptional circumstances” to be replaced by a rather broad, opaque requirement to demonstrate that the waiver would be compatible with the LSA’s regulatory objectives. When considering an application, the SRA says it will “reach a decision that best serves our public interest purpose: namely, providing consumers with appropriate protection and supporting the rule of law and administration of justice”. What does this mean?

In terms of the register, the SRA will “generally” publish decisions. The level of detail to be published is, as yet, unknown. If only limited information is given, the register will be a fig leaf in terms of transparency.

All this ties in with the SRA’s desire to press ahead with de-regulation, even if this means jumping the gun on rule changes. SRA Innovate is part of the jigsaw where the SRA says it wants to help firms to explore “new ideas and ways of working” – and is prepared to grant waivers to help the process along. The slight fly in the ointment is that the SRA seems prepared to give waiver applicants a commercial advantage to the possible detriment of others who play by the rules. This was demonstrated earlier in the year when an unregulated company was allowed to employ solicitors to provide non-reserved legal services to the public. Rule 4 of the Practice Framework Rules governing in-house practice was effectively blown apart.

Are you finding the rules a bit troublesome for your firm’s plans? Join the waivers queue!

Bronwen Still Consultant Solicitor with Jayne Willetts & Co Solicitors & Director of Infolegal Limited