The SRA has recently decided to revamp its processes for handling all applications for new firms and for making changes to existing firms.
The applications and notifications that have been affected by the change include:
- Applying to be authorised or licensed as a recognised sole practice, a recognised body or an ABS;
- Adding, or applying for approval of, new managers and/or owners;
- Notifying the SRA, and applying for approval, of new compliance officers;
- Notice of closure or acquisition of a firm;
- Changing a firm’s legal entity; and
- Becoming a freelancer
All these applications must now be made through an individual’s or firm’s MySRA portal where the appropriate forms can be found and downloaded. Previously, the forms were found on the “Firm based authorisation” section of the SRA’s website and when completed had to be emailed to the SRA’s Authorisation team.
In theory, the process should be easier in that all completed forms and supporting documents can be uploaded to a firm’s (or individual’s) MySRA account and any associated fee paid through it. Progress with the application can then be tracked online. In practice that may not always be the case.
How does the new system work?
Having logged in to MySRA, the forms can be accessed via “Start a new application”. If you are a firm, for example, applying for a new owner, manager or compliance officer to be approved you need to click on “Apply for approval of a person as an authorised role holder” and the relevant forms are listed. If applying to set up a new firm, all the necessary forms can be downloaded from the section headed “Apply for authorisation of a new firm”. Similarly, all other applications can be accessed under the appropriate headings.
Once completed the forms and accompanying documents, such as business plans and offers of insurance in respect of new firm applications, can then be uploaded to your MySRA portal where they will be checked within 48 hours by the SRA to ensure that all the relevant information has been provided for your application to proceed. It will then be allocated to a caseworker for processing. That case worker may raise further questions before it proceeds to a decision maker.
A few points to note that can cause problems and delay with an application:
- A prospective new manager or owner of a firm must complete the relevant form to be approved, or if deemed approved, to notify the SRA of their appointment. If the firm provides services caught by the Money Laundering Regulations the firm must also complete form FA10b to update its anti-money laundering information. This will also involve submitting the results of a DBS check in respect of the new owner/manager.
- A new non-lawyer manager or owner cannot be added to a recognised body without the firm applying at the same time to be an ABS.
- New firm applications must be accompanied by an offer of insurance from a participating insurer. Although not compulsory, it is also helpful if a business plan is uploaded with the application as it can anticipate and deal with regulatory issues that the SRA is likely to raise such as, for example, how confidentiality will be ensured where there are shared premises.
Where things do not go as planned
Unfortunately, it is not always that straight forward.
If you are an Apple Mac user, then some of the forms cannot be downloaded. This seems to be arbitrary as to what can and cannot be accessed. There also seem to be some browsers with which the system is less happy.
The SRA are apparently having technical issues with the new system so in the immediate future forms can still be downloaded through the old portal “Firm based authorisation” and then uploaded through the MySRA portal when completed.
Infolegal members can access more information on setting up a new firm by going to Factsheet 14 – “Surviving the SRA Authorisation Process”.