Freelance solicitors and reserved legal services
Generally, a Freelance Solicitor will only be able to provide reserved legal services as a solicitor through an entity that is authorised to do so – see SRA guidance on firm authorisation here.
However, if you are a solicitor practising on your own account, you can provide reserved legal services without being authorised as a recognised sole practice if you meet a number of conditions, these being:
- You have practised as a solicitor for a minimum of three years since admission or registration.
- You are self-employed and practise in your own name, and not through a trading name or service company.
This also means, for example, that you cannot be practising in a partnership, as a consultant on behalf of someone else, or through a limited company.
1. You do not employ anyone in connection with the services that you provide.
“Employ” is given its natural meaning and can include contracting with someone else in connection with the services you provide even if you do not call them an employee. The intention is to restrict this exception to solicitors who are genuinely working alone. Those who employ assistants, or delegate their service provision to others cannot provide reserved legal services under this exception. However, this provision is not intended to prevent you from contracting with others for them to provide administrative support activities (as opposed to legal services) which enable you as an individual to provide your service as long as this does not amount to employing those others. One distinction may be, for example, that those that supply the support services do so for others as well as yourself and are not otherwise treated as your employees. So, for example you will be able to
- Come together with others in a chambers arrangement as self-employed solicitors. where the chambers provides administrative and business support.
- See clients from a “maintained office” where the host provides reception and other administrative and secretarial services.
2. You are engaged directly by the client, and the client pays their fees directly to you.
If you are in a chambers arrangement, for example, the contract for the legal services must be between you and the client, not the chambers and the client, and payments for fees cannot be made in the name of the chambers.
- You have a practising address in the UK.
- You take out and maintain indemnity insurance that provides adequate and appropriate cover in respect of the services that you provide or have provided (including both reserved and unreserved legal services) and that takes into account any alternative arrangements you or your clients may make.
The SRA issued separate guidance on this obligation and on your duty to inform clients that they will not be covered by insurance on the SRA’s minimum terms and conditions and that alternative arrangements are in place.
- You only hold client money when it is for payments on account of costs and disbursements that you have not yet billed where:
- any money held for disbursements relates to costs and expenses incurred by you on behalf of your client and for which you are liable, and
- you have told the client in advance where and how that money will be held.
If your client needs to pay, or is due to receive, other types of client money (for example, damages or money from an estate) then you cannot hold it. You will need to make other arrangements that safeguard the client’s funds – for example, through a third-party managed account.
See SRA separate guidance on third party managed accounts and the definition of clients money in Rule 2.1 of the Accounts Rules and associated guidance. Any fees that you charge must be payable to you in person.
Contact us if you require Professional Indemnity Insurance when undertaking such activities.