A new regulatory model by the SRA will come into effect on 25 November, relaxing the rules currently imposed upon solicitors in the UK. The new regulations will allow solicitors greater flexibility in how they work, with a view to making it easier for the public to get the legal help they need. The new SRA Standards and Regulations, which were approved by the Legal Services Board (LSB) last year, took over four years to develop following four major public consultations encompassing over 35000 members of the public, legal professionals and wider stakeholders.
The aim of the overhaul was to create a set of more concise and targeted rules than the existing format, and focus on what really matters: the issues most important to protecting the public. The SRA believe that by removing many of the prescriptive rules currently in place, the burden on solicitors and law firms will be reduced thereby allowing solicitors a greater degree of freedom to use their professional judgement in determining how they meet the standards.
The SRA hopes that stripping away outdated and unnecessary ‘red tape’ will give solicitors more flexibility to design and deliver services around their client’s needs and that the new rules and regulations will help consumers access a wider range of high-quality legal services, still safe in the knowledge that stringent protections are still in place.
Most would agree that greater choice can only be good for both the public and the profession. One of the key changes resulting from the SRA allowing solicitors greater freedom in how they deliver their services will be the option for more solicitors to provide reserved legal services on a freelance basis.
The topic of legal tech comes to the forefront here, as technology has an important role to play in this shift toward a more fluid and flexible workforce model. Whether its technology to keep solicitors who work remotely in touch with colleagues so that they still feel part of the team, or harnessing AI to automate lengthy administrative processes, tech will play a huge role in this ever-changing legal landscape.
The legal industry is currently undergoing huge changes courtesy of developing technologies that challenge the status quo. No matter where in the marketplace they stand, legal firms simply will have to change not just for the changing demands of their clients, but in order to keep up with the workforce of the future plus firms will find it difficult to compete if they cannot keep pace with the technology that clients increasingly expect them to use.
Technology can help solicitors offer services that are more efficient, productive, and accurate. Some would suggest that freelance, or independent, solicitors have greater traction to offer a more flexible and reasonable proposition for clients who do not feel a traditional firm is the right fit for their needs. And as an independent solicitor, flexibility is a key advantage, plus being able to benefit from a greater variety of work and a larger range of clients as freelance practitioners are able to control what work they take on.
Technology is likely to bring fundamental changes to the way that people benefit from professional services and to the way in which professionals share their knowledge. Increasing use of technology can benefit the legal market by: meeting demand; driving competition in the market; improving access to legal services and improving standards of service. If firms are able to increase their efficiency and productivity, they can reduce costs to meet the needs of those who would not otherwise be able to afford legal advice, while still operating profitably.
A large proportion of the public with legal problems attempt to solve them without obtaining professional legal advice, a percentage of those considering taking legal advice deciding not to use a solicitor because they consider them unaffordable. This is a large market available not just to traditional law firms, but for shrewd independent solicitors and alternative legal service providers who can acknowledge the value of legaltech and take advantage of improved efficiency to help improve access to justice.
In line with increasing consumer demand, remote working systems and services that are accessed via phones and the internet also help to deliver legal services to those who may be able to afford legal representation, but who cannot physically access it. Examples for this application include clients who live in more remote areas or in where they are simply too far away from specialists in the area of law they need. This is particularly relevant to those practitioners considering going freelance, without the resources of a firm behind them it is even more imperative to have the technology available to able to reach these potential audiences and create a new client base.
It is widely agreed that increasing access to legal services should increase demand in the market and rather than reducing the work available for lawyers, advancing technology will increase it. It is the opportune moment to embrace the legal tech movement, allow the requisite time and resources to exploring what legaltech solutions are the best fit for you whether as a firm or an independent practitioner and begin to meet the demand of today’s consumers, helping to deliver a competitive fee without compromising quality.