Friday 15 July 2011

Changing the Stationery

Logs being floated down the river to make paper for Lawyers
I thought it might be wise to be abreast of the Solicitor's Regulation Authority Outcomes Focused Regulation that comes into effect for firms regulated by the SRA on 6 October 2011. There is a whole new Code of Conduct that was approved only in June. I understood that the aim had been to avoid micro-management and a multitude of detailed rules. The Tag line is Freedom in Practice. From a marketing perspective, that sounds promising and liberating. Great stuff you might think for you and the consumer.

However when I see notices like this from The Law Society demanding that you change your stationery, you wonder if the message has truly got across. Presumably the outcome for a law firm's clients is that they can identify who they are dealing with - but why assume that legal practice requires pre-printed stationery and that firm's must change it. Is the outcome not achieved by adding the information in a signature block added during document creation. It does not need to be printed. Unfortunately the Outcome we are addressing here (Outcome 8.5 no less)  is not an "outcome" at all its a prescriptive rule that defines the wording. No freedom allowed.

For the small legal practice this new Handbook is an implementation nightmare. Fortunately the SRA are offering roadshows to get you abreast of the new regime. There is one in London on 6 September so book in. It's free and there is that lure of free CPD.


  1. Our letterhead already states "We are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority ..." and gives our number, which is surely pretty meaningless. What possible purpose does the addition of the words "authorised and ..." make? Does the one not imply the other - at least to most people, if not as a matter of strict interpretation? Can one be regulated by the SRA without also being authorised by it? I despair.

  2. My sympathies. Running a "chambers" as a sole practitioner barrister, I have noticed a similar increase of prescriptive rules.

    The most awkward recently has been a requirement to write direct to solicitor instructed clients to inform them of their right to complain to me or the Legal Ombudsman. Bound to confuse the lay client who may not have heard of me.

  3. Thanks for drawing attention to that one Francis. I don't have any problems with the Legal Ombudsman but its hardly ethical to be sending direct communications inviting complaints. The lay client who perhaps quite reasonably did not know advice had been taken would be highly offended. I suppose it means taking advice without informing the client is unethical.

  4. "Solicitors MAY need to make changes to their stationery"

    Hardly a draconian addition and something which can probably be dealt with as suggested in the post as there is no insistence that all current stationary must be burnt.