The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is set to change its Code of Conduct in reaction to the regulatory demands of the Legal Services Act 2007.
The modifications to the Code will include bringing in legal disciplinary practices (LDPs) next year as an interim development to the alternative business structures allowed through the Act.
Through LDPs solicitors will be permitted to go into partnership with barristers and licensed conveyancers as well as up to 25 per cent of non-lawyer partners.
SRA chair Peter Williamson said certain rule changes will now go through the justice secretary’s consultation panel before they can formally be introduced in 2009.
“These changes are the first step in encouraging innovation and competition in the legal services market through more flexible forms of practice and ones which will ultimately benefit consumers,” said Williamson.
Antony Townsend, the SRA chief executive, added that the regulation watchdog sought to reform the Code to ensure consumer and public protection was maintained while creating a more streamlined and efficient system without too much red tape.
“Although the fine detail has still to be established, we believe that firm-based regulation will prove more effective and efficient in terms of the necessary checks and fee collection,” said Townsend.
The Code reforms means solicitors will be able to join legal practices regulated by other approved regulators such as the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.
Where there are unincorporated partnerships they will need to become recognised bodies, with sole practitioners also needing to be authorised as “recognised sole practitioners”.
Existing sole practices and partnerships, however, will be automatically “passported” to become recognised without having to undergo any formalities.
The changes to the Code follow the Law Society delegating the rulemaking to the SRA last week.