SRA Relax Compliance Rules On Client Care Letters

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has indicated that law firms may forego the usual formality of sending a client care letter if this is hindering the ability to make valid emergency Wills.

The advice could be the first indication that regulators are finding ways of relaxing laws and compliance rules regarding Wills which make it difficult to act in the client’s best interests during the coronavirus lockdown.

The advice was updated at the end of last week and suggested that client information can be passed on verbally as long as the firm is able to evidence the fact that it was communicated in a way the client will understand.

If client care information was presented verbally, the SRA advise evidencing this in an attendance note or other record which documents the reasons for a client care conversation as opposed to tangible letter.

The SRA have also insisted that no action would be taken if the firm are unable to send details of complaints procedures in writing, at the current time, and if they were clearly explained in the conversation.

As of April 2, the SRA’s ‘Help With Common Compliance Queries’ stated:  

“We understand that the current situation creates many practical difficulties for firms trying to act in their client’s best interests. We are committed to being pragmatic and proportionate in our compliance approach. Our focus is on serious misconduct and differentiating between those who have tried to do the right thing, and those who haven’t.

“Our rules require you to give your client information about how their matter will be dealt with (including the best possible information about cost,) in a way they can understand. See rules 8.6-8.11 of our Code of Conduct for Solicitors.

“It is a matter for firms to decide the most effective way of communicating this information to their clients. Usually firms provide this information in a client care letter but, if there was good reason why this was not practical and it was in your client’s best interest to move rapidly, then there is nothing in our rules to prevent you from doing this verbally. We suggest you evidence this in an attendance note or other record so that you can explain your decision making if you, or we, subsequently receive a complaint.

“There is a requirement to deliver, in writing, details of your complaints procedure and the right to make a complaint to the legal ombudsman, at the outset of a retainer. However we would not take action if there is a good reason resulting from the current coronavirus crisis for not providing this in writing – so long as the key information has been explained to the client, and this has been documented, together with your decision-making.”

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