On 4 April 2012 the SRA published new guidance on its notification requirements for partner moves. These requirements are substantially more onerous than was previously the case and every law firm will need to be aware of the changes when appointing new partners.

Every partner appointment made after 1 April 2012 must now be pre-approved by the SRA. Processing times for approval of the appointment of a solicitor partner are anticipated to be around 30 days. Processing times for any Registered Foreign Lawyer partner or any Exempt European Lawyer partner appointments may be substantially longer, with processing times of between 12 to 16 weeks. Although the SRA states that most applications will be dealt with within those timeframes, it should be noted that it is permitted to take up to six months to make a decision as to whether to approve a partner appointment. Registered Foreign Lawyers and Exempt European Lawyers will also have to undergo a suitability test, which may involve a criminal records bureau check.

These changes will affect all law firms, but will particularly impact on:

  • firms who wish to recruit a partner on short notice;
  • firms who regularly recruit registered foreign lawyers or exempt european lawyers;
  • international firms whose management includes registered foreign lawyers or exempt european lawyers; and
  • team moves.

Planning ahead for partner appointments is now more essential than ever and we anticipate that firms will wish to investigate options for mitigating the issues this raises when looking to take on a partner prior to SRA approval.

If you would like advice or support in connection with this issue, please contact Tina Williams or Doug Preece.

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