The Solicitors Regulation Authority is consulting on a proposal to bring the process for authorising sole practitioner law firms (firms with only one principal, who can be a solicitor or a registered European lawyer) in line with the way in which all other firms will be authorised.
Sole practice: modernising authorisation sets out a proposed Order to amend the Administration of Justice Act 1985 and the Solicitors Act 1974 so that sole practitioners will become a category of "recognised body".
This means that sole practitioners would be subject to the same authorisation and regulatory processes as other firms (including alternative business structures).
The proposed Order would remove the current requirement for a sole practitioner's practising certificate (PC) to be endorsed annually, and substitute an indefinite authorisation of the firm. If regulatory steps were required, they could then be taken against the firm's authorisation instead of the individual's PC endorsement.
Chief Executive Antony Townsend said: "These proposals are designed to be cost-neutral for sole practitioners, and will simplify the system of regulation to the benefit of everyone. We welcome comments on this consultation, as part of our wider engagement with law firms as we introduce outcomes-focused, risk-based regulation."
The consultation closes on 8 March 2011 and the changes would take effect from 31 March 2012, which is when new draft Authorisation Rules (currently under consultation as part of the new draft regulatory Handbook) would apply to recognised bodies. Existing recognised sole practitioners would be "passported" across to the new regime.