The SRA Regulation Changes – A Major Step Forward!

So, have we had a positive effect on the legal services market?

Quite possibly, as from the 25th November 2019, the rules governing the way Solicitors practice have changed. Finally, the SRA have caught up – or should we say, they have changed their archaic rules to allow Solicitors to practice on non-reserved matters on an unregulated basis, even allowing them to do so without holding professional indemnity insurance – and this time allowing the use of the word “Solicitor”.

This, you might think is a great step forward – and we totally agree with you.

In fact, we congratulate the SRA for taking this action and for providing the legal industry with what is a more commercial and client-focussed service.

…Did we mention that we have been doing this for over 5 years?

In 2014 we created “360 Business & Private Client Law” one of the first unregulated law firms in the UK. In order to overcome the possibility of breaching SRA Regulations (as the term “Solicitor” is a protected title), we have been utilising qualified Solicitors and Barristers in the capacity of  “consultant lawyers”, practicing on “non-reserved matters” (see LINK for a list of reserved matters).

Our model, which provides legal services through a high-tech virtual environment, has been well received by our clients, as our low-overhead has allowed us to pass on significant cost savings resulting in fee rates far below those charged by traditional law firms – without reducing quality of service. Initially, however, it was an uphill struggle convincing Solicitors and Barristers that they could indeed work in this “Unregulated” manner, but we persevered and over the years our persistence prevailed.

On August 4th 2017,360 Law Services” was licensed by the SRA to provide regulated legal services, meaning that we could practice in all areas of law, including reserved matters such as litigation and commercial property.

This step in our history made our parent company “360 Law Group the only group in the UK to be able to offer “Regulated” and “Unregulated” legal services in the United Kingdom.

Now, our firm operates in over 30 countries throughout the world solely utilising qualified Solicitors, Barristers and Overseas Attorneys all with a minimum of five years post qualifying experience in their area of expertise. Many of our consultant lawyers have far greater experience than this however, with many previously working as associates and partners in respected city law firms such as DLA Piper, Allen & Overy, Eversheds, Bird & Bird, Mayer Brown and Baker McKenzie, to name but a few.

Within five short years we have gone from being the new disruptive kid on the legal services block, to being listed on the 14th November 2019 in the Times Newspaper as one of The Best Law Firms in the UK for 2020.

We are so proud of this achievement, but we are far prouder of the fact that we provide our clients with high quality legal services, globally, at hourly rates far lower than those provided by traditional practices in the countries within which our clients trade, just take a look at how our UK member rate compares with the fee model of the average city firm:

Cost experience graph

In an industry dominated by traditional law firms with City centre premises and legions of support staff, the question we now ask is what effect will this really have on the sector? Solicitors can now use the word “Solicitor” even where they provide legal services in an unregulated manner, but what are the real changes for consumers and company clients?

Will the changes in the SRA Regulations actually result in a reduction in fees for consumers and companies?

If traditional firms continue to deliver the same service offering, from the same prestigious and unnecessarily luxurious premises, utilising the same people through the same archaic IT structures that prevent innovation – the answer is no. If traditional firms do not evolve, even when the body regulating their practice pushes for sector-wide transformation through its new rules, their clients won’t benefit at all.

Take it from us, a law firm whose entire global overhead structure runs at sub 10% of turnover, that you cannot run a high quality, cost-effective law firm that provides service at a low cost for its clients, unless your overhead is low, and you cannot achieve a low overhead with City premises, a myriad of support (paralegals, trainees and junior Solicitors) and a mass of back office staff.

We agree that the change in the SRA Regulations will have an effect on how Solicitors can practice – as we said before, they can now work in an unregulated manner and still refer to themselves as a “Solicitor” – a giant leap forward in our books.

But will the change in the SRA Regulations actually have any effect at all for consumer or company clients of traditional high street law firms?

Although I am sure the spin doctors will market the changes as revolutionary, we suggest that you actually look beyond the headlines and to see where there is an improvement in services or a significant reduction in fees, otherwise the changes might have had no effect at all for consumers of legal services.

If traditional firms failed to rethink their costly structures and dependencies upon the arrival of market disruptors; if the shift in regulation to promote competition, protect consumers and make legal services more accessible did not prompt change, then it’s hard to imagine the upcoming SRA changes will make a difference to their clients, but we’ll let you make your own mind up!