‘Safe spaces’ to help law firms develop ideas

The SRA wants to make it easier for law firms to develop new ideas with the help of ‘safe spaces’ for innovation.

It says that following a consultation last year, the Innovate initiative will continue to encourage the development of new services while ensuring proper safeguards for the public are in place. Early indications from the pilots are that this type of facility is useful for small firms, larger providers and new entrants to the legal services market.

The opportunity for the provider to work with the SRA as they developed their thinking helped to provide assurance that the proposals were in the interests of the users of legal services.The  ‘waivers’ process is also being changed. Existing or new firms can already apply for specific rules to be waived, allowing them to run their business in the way that suits them best.

It’s hoped that simplifying this process and making the criteria clearer, will help firms understand what might be possible.

Responding to feedback, the SRA will publish any waivers granted to make sure the process is fair and transparent, without compromising commercial confidentiality. It will also build in a set of checks, including an annual innovation report, to make sure decisions are being made consistently, and that the approach is encouraging innovation.

Paul Philip, Chief Executive, said: “Thank you to the firms and organisations that responded to our consultation. Most people supported our proposals to get out of the way of businesses that want to offer legal services in different ways.

“We have trialled our proposed approach through our SRA Innovate initiative, which provides a safe space for firms to try new services, with good results. Changing how we manage and publish waivers will also help firms, while making sure that the public is protected.”

An initial version of SRA Innovate was launched in the spring of 2016. It offers a collection of resources and access to advice to help firms who want to innovate.

The SRA will run regional events to help firms interested in innovation in Cambridge (5 June), Bristol (26 June) and Newcastle (4 July).