Managing branch office

Can I manage a branch office of a solicitors firm or head a department within the firm?

Chapter 7 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2011 concerns business management of law firms. The onus is on the firm to ensure it is complies with this rule and has the appropriate management structures in place. The overarching responsibility for the management of the business rests with the managers. The managers should determine what arrangements are appropriate to meet the outcomes set out in Chapter 7.

The partners of a law firm can delegate management responsibilities to any employee (including non-solicitors) if that employee is suitably experienced and competent. A Fellow could be considered suitability experienced and competent. However, the firm would need to be able to demonstrate this to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Under Rule 12 of the SRA Practice Framework Rules 2011, firms must have a manager or sole practitioner who is “qualified to supervise”. This means they must have been practising for at least three years in the past ten years and have completed the training specified from time to time by the SRA for this purpose.

The person ‘qualified to supervise’ does not have to be personally entitled by law to supervise all work undertaken by the firm. However, an important part of that person’s responsibilities is to ensure that unqualified persons do not undertake reserved work except under the supervision of a suitably qualified person. Firms must also meet Outcome 7.7 of complying with the statutory requirements for the direction and supervision of reserved legal activities and immigration work.

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