A mere 22 days after the SRA first published its guidance on the pre-approval requirements for partner appointments, substantial changes have been introduced.

Prior to the changes, the SRA required firms wishing to appoint new solicitor partners to wait up to 30 days for SRA approval before doing so. Time periods for approval of Registered Foreign Lawyer, Registered European Lawyer and Exempt European Lawyer partner appointments were expected to be much longer, taking between 12 to 16 weeks and requiring a lengthy application form to be submitted with detailed supporting documentation.

The need to seek pre-approval of partner appointments and the time periods for obtaining that approval would undoubtedly have caused headaches for firms recruiting lateral hires on short notice. The new guidance goes some way to eliminating these issues by now permitting firms, in effect, to notify the SRA of solicitor partner appointments after the fact.

However, Registered Foreign Lawyers, Registered European Lawyers and Exempt European Lawyers must still make an application to the SRA for approval prior to their becoming a partner. The anticipated processing time for these applications has been reduced to 30 days, although it remains to be seen whether the SRA will meet this deadline in practice. Firms looking to appoint partners in any of these categories should consider making a pre-emptive notification to the SRA of a potential appointment. It is clear that the SRA will be very reluctant to process applications on an expedited basis, but, where an issue arises due to an appointment made in April, it may be possible to obtain a temporary waiver of the rules.

Finally, it should be noted that the SRA’s updated guidance states that firms must not “hold out” a person who has not been approved as a partner, member or director of, respectively, an SRA-regulated partnership, LLP or company, until such time as the individual has been approved.

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