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SRA brings local authority lawyers on board for practice rules review

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has invited a number of local authority lawyers to provide advice as it gears up to review in-house practice rules.

The regulator has asked various chairs of SLG branches as well as members of ACSeS to take part in a local government in-house lawyers reference group to provide research and advice to the SRA as it considers Rule 4 of the Practice Framework Rules 2011.

SLG chair Bev Cullen said: “This is a long awaited review which should resolve some thorny issues about what work can be undertaken for other public bodies by local authority solicitors.”

A spokesman for the SRA said: “The purpose of the review is to ensure we fully understand the issues faced by those working in-house and what we can do to reduce any risks they face in terms of complying with the Code of Conduct.

“We’re in the final stages of preparing the review and we’ll be putting out full details in due course.”

Local government lawyers have been vocal in calling for changes to the practice rules, which, they argue, in their current wording inhibit council legal teams from using the general power of competence and charging for legal services.

One particular issue that many practitioners hope will be addressed by the SRA’s review is the provision in section 4.15 of the Handbook governing local authorities’ ability to charge charities or voluntary organisations for legal services.

Maria Memoli, one of two Law Society Council members for local government, wrote to the SRA in the summer of 2011 arguing that the restrictions on charging caused problems when councils were looking to advise organisations such as academies, housing associations and further education colleges.