The rules and principles, known as the SRA Standards and Regulations, introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) came into force today to replace the ‘prescriptive’ SRA Handbook. The SRA regulates solicitors and law firms in England and Wales.

This is an important development in IP law and practice because the law firms ranked in the UK (England), particularly for contentious and copyright work, are regulated by the SRA. UK patent and trade mark attorneys (see firms ranked for patent and trade mark prosecution) are regulated by the Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg). However, there are boutique IP firms that are covered by both regulators (for example D Young & Co and Carpmaels & Ransford).

The SRA’s new regulatory package covers things such as the code of conduct for solicitors and law firms; principles (e.g. client care, communication and encouraging diversity); the different ways solicitors and law firms can operate or practice; information to be provided to the public (e.g. displaying the SRA logo); and enforcement policy. The SRA has provided guidance on all aspects of the new rules, including a warning notice on the use of social media (see here). The SRA has a five-year programme in place to evaluate the impact of the new rules.

One of the key objectives of the new rules is to further open up the legal services market so the public can easily get access to qualified lawyers. The SRA’s CEO Paul Philip said: "These reforms focus on what matters: the high professional standards that offer real public protection rather than unnecessary bureaucracy that generates costs, constrains firms and hinders access to legal services. This shorter, sharper set of rules support an open, modern, competitive legal sector that can better meet the need for accessible, affordable services.

Read the SRA Standards and Regulations here and the guidance documents here.

The old SRA Handbook can be found here.