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STARS in their eyes......

 We are just about three months away from the introduction of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s “Standards and Regulations” (already being referred to as “STARS”) - the replacement for the SRA 2011 Code of Conduct, or Outcomes Focused Regulation (OFR).

So what do we know about STARS so far?

Well, firstly they will pave the way for the introduction of Freelance Solicitors into the legal profession which the SRA believes will “open” the legal market place and promote competition, which will be to the benefit of consumers. (Firms no longer have clients…). This is another attempt to achieve this aim since the introduction of Alternative Business Structures which never really took off, and in line with the Legal Services Act 2007.

These freelance solicitors will not be subjected to the same indemnity requirements as authorised and regulated firms, with the SRA intending for them to have “appropriate and adequate” insurance requirements. So far, with only three months left, there has been no further expansion on what “appropriate and adequate” insurance requirements may be.

Secondly, there is a complete language upheaval. While “Principles” remain, although there are less of them, “Outcomes” will be no more, and neither will the “Indicative Behaviours” which would have suggested that a fee earner in a firm was complying or not with the 2011 handbook.

Instead, the SRA have said they will be introducing “toolkits” but once again, nothing has been introduced by the regulator so far to help authorised and regulated firms comply with the new regime.

With the removal of the outcomes and indicative behaviours, and without the toolkits, there is little in the way of guidance for the STARS, so firms may be forgiven for thinking, “what can we do to prepare?”

The first thing to consider is what the firm may already have in place in terms of quality standards. This could be Lexcel, CQS, WIQS, or the SQM, all of which have been developed by the Law Society or the Legal Aid Agency to promote best practice for firms. If your firm has one of these, then you will at least have supporting documentary evidence of what was being done, along with guidance on why it was being done.

In terms of quality standards such as Lexcel, currently only SRA authorised and regulated firms are eligible for the accreditation, while the Law Society hasn’t yet announced whether freelance solicitors will be eligible to join the scheme.

So if you have a quality standard then you will need to consider what changes are needed to any procedures or documentation that supports it post November 25th 2019 to bring it in line with STARS.

Because somewhere down the line, the SRA may decide to check up on your firm and if you haven’t prepared then your firm may be “seeing stars…”

To see this article in Welsh, simply keep reading…

 

STARS yn eu llygaid …

Rydym bron i dri mis i ffwrdd o gyflwyno “Safonau a Rheoliadau” yr Awdurdod Rheoleiddio Cyfreithwyr (y cyfeirir atynt eisoes fel “STARS”) - disodli Cod Ymddygiad SRA 2011, neu Reoliad sy'n Canolbwyntio ar Ganlyniadau (OFR)

Felly beth ydyn ni'n ei wybod am STARS hyd yn hyn?

Wel, yn gyntaf byddant yn paratoi'r ffordd ar gyfer cyflwyno Cyfreithwyr Llawrydd i'r proffesiwn cyfreithiol y mae'r SRA yn credu y bydd yn “agor” y farchnad gyfreithiol ac yn hyrwyddo cystadleuaeth, a fydd er budd defnyddwyr. (Nid oes gan gwmnïau gleientiaid mwyach ...). Dyma ymgais arall i gyflawni'r nod hwn ers cyflwyno Strwythurau Busnes Amgen na ddaeth i ben mewn gwirionedd, ac yn unol â Deddf Gwasanaethau Cyfreithiol 2007.

Ni fydd y cyfreithwyr ar eu liwt eu hunain yn destun yr un gofynion indemniad â chwmnïau awdurdodedig a rheoledig, gyda'r SRA yn bwriadu iddynt fod â gofynion yswiriant “priodol a digonol”. Hyd yn hyn, gyda dim ond tri mis ar ôl, ni fu unrhyw ehangu pellach ar yr hyn y gallai gofynion yswiriant “priodol a digonol” fod.

Yn ail, mae cynnwrf iaith llwyr. Er bod “Egwyddorion” yn parhau, er bod llai ohonynt, ni fydd “Canlyniadau” yn fwy, ac ni fydd yr “Ymddygiadau Dangosol” a fyddai wedi awgrymu bod enillydd ffioedd mewn cwmni yn cydymffurfio â llawlyfr 2011 ai peidio.

Yn lle hynny, mae'r SRA wedi dweud y byddan nhw'n cyflwyno “pecynnau cymorth” ond unwaith eto, nid yw'r rheoleiddiwr wedi cyflwyno dim hyd yma i helpu cwmnïau awdurdodedig a rheoledig i gydymffurfio â'r drefn newydd.

Gyda chael gwared ar y canlyniadau ac ymddygiadau dangosol, a heb y pecynnau cymorth, nid oes llawer o ganllawiau ar gyfer y STARS, felly mae'n bosibl y bydd cwmnïau'n cael eu maddau am feddwl, “beth allwn ei wneud i baratoi?

Y peth cyntaf i'w ystyried yw'r hyn a allai fod gan y cwmni eisoes ar waith o ran safonau ansawdd. Gallai hyn fod yn Lexcel, CQS, WIQS, neu'r SQM, y mae pob un ohonynt wedi'i ddatblygu gan Gymdeithas y Gyfraith neu'r Asiantaeth Cymorth Cyfreithiol i hyrwyddo arfer gorau i gwmnïau. Os oes gan eich cwmni un o'r rhain, yna bydd gennych o leiaf dystiolaeth ddogfennol o'r hyn a oedd yn cael ei wneud, ynghyd ag arweiniad ar pam yr oedd yn cael ei wneud.

O ran safonau ansawdd fel Lexcel, ar hyn o bryd dim ond cwmnïau awdurdodedig a rheoledig SRA sy’n gymwys ar gyfer yr achrediad, tra nad yw Cymdeithas y Gyfraith wedi cyhoeddi eto a fydd cyfreithwyr llawrydd yn gymwys i ymuno â’r cynllun.

Felly os oes gennych safon ansawdd yna bydd angen i chi ystyried pa newidiadau sydd eu hangen i unrhyw weithdrefnau neu ddogfennaeth sy'n ei gefnogi ar ôl Tachwedd 25ain 2019 er mwyn sicrhau ei fod yn unol â STARS.