The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has launched a consultation paper setting out a unified regulatory Handbook for both traditional law firms and new Alternative Business Structures (ABSs).
The consultation is the fourth issued by the SRA on fundamental changes to the way in which solicitors and firms are regulated, to take effect from October 2011 - the date when ABSs will also be licensed.
It includes the draft Code of Conduct, revised and developed following responses to the May consultation, plus rules governing key regulatory protections such as the Accounts Rules (to protect clients' money), new tighter procedures for the authorisation of firms and individuals, and reformed disciplinary procedures. It also sets out the proposed new information requirements for firms, to enable the SRA to target its resources on the areas of highest risk.
Chief Executive Antony Townsend said: "The new Code of Conduct and the outcomes-focused approach to regulation have been generally welcomed, with strong agreement with our proposals to have a common standard of consumer protection for all types of law firms, whether traditional or ABSs.
"Our programme to transform regulation remains on track for 2011. The reforms will help us identify and concentrate on the areas of highest risk, help firms focus on the quality of service to consumers, and bring greater flexibility for well-managed firms, enabling them to deliver services in ways suited to their clients and type of business."