Top-hatted city gents in discussion outside the Westminster Bank in the City of London, 1931
The Smedley Report last year recommended to the Solicitors Regulation Authority that it needed a specialist division to regulate large corporate law firms. The SRA gave every appearance of agreeing. Then the Hunt Review stepped in and endorsed the idea.
Unfortunately the SRA has balked at this and instead appointed an ex-Linklaters lawyer as Solicitors Regulation Authority's Chief Adviser on City law firms. The SRA news release describes the role
It is planned for Eastwell to act as a "bridgehead" between the SRA and City law firms, something that takes on added importance with the approach of multidisciplinary practices (MDPs) and alternative business structures (ABSs).Quite why the SRA has wimped out this way is unclear. Maybe it couldn't stomach the idea that it wasn't fully competent to regulate large law firms. I doubt this half-way house will satisfy the City firms.
It does leave it open now for the large law firms to think about forming their own regulator. There is nothing to prevent them from doing so. Three years ago the City of London Solicitors Law Society hived itself off from the livery company. And the CLLS now engages in much regulatory activity. This could be the moment.
Time will tell.
The City Today