Who and what is a “Sole Practitioner”?

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We most likely all know that “sole practitioners” are solicitors who are authorised by the SRA to provide legal services to the public alone and outside of a law firm, but beyond this basic definition it gets tricky. For a start, not all sole practitioners are solicitors; some are barristers, legal executives, or lawyers who are qualified to practice a specific area of law such as insolvency or immigration.

Wikipedia-logo-v2.svgIt’s difficult enough for the lawyers, but it must be even more confusing for the public.  I was not able to find a “catch all” definition for sole practitioner lawyers that described  the different professional categories and how they are each regulated, so I have had a go at creating one on Wikipedia.

If you are a sole practitioner lawyer who is regulated by the SRA or any other regulator, I would be grateful if you could view and improve this Wikipedia entry. In particular I apologise for my  very geographically localised definition  to England and Wales and I encourage adding some wider geographical definitions.

Please visit the Wikipedia entry directly, also copied below:

A Sole Practitioner (UK) usually refers to either;

  • A solicitor or registered European lawyer who is regulated (in England and Wales) by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to provide paid-for legal services to the public alone and unattached to a law firm or organisation, or
  • a non SRA regulated lawyer who provides legal services alone outside of an organisation and is regulated by an authorised and legally recognised regulatory board or organisation.

SRA regulated sole practitioners do not include the following lawyers, who may also work alone or as a sole lawyer with an organisation:

  • A regulated lawyer who works for a non-legal company or organisation, save for specific purposes under the SRA’s regulations.
  • Professional qualified and recognised barristers who are regulated by the Bar Standards Board.
  • Lawyers who have achieved their professional qualification through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).
  • Lawyers who are may be qualified and permitted to practice a specific area of law by through a separate regulator, such as the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (for non-solicitor/barrister immigration lawyers) or insolvency practitioners, who are regulated by The Insolvency Service.

The above lawyers may also practice law and provide legal services alone subject to their specific regulators requirements, rules and any authorisation processes. For example, CILEX publish guidance and rules that apply to qualified Legal Executives who provide legal services alone.

A sole practitioner would most likely be a sole trader under UK law, meaning that the lawyer is self employed and would run the business as an individual, paying income tax on profits.

As of 25 May 2016, solicitor sole practitioners are regulated under rule 10 of the SRA’s handbook, which provides that subject to specific exceptions, regulated lawyers cannot set up their own law practice and provide legal services as a sole practitioner unless they have applied for and gained authorisation to do so from the SRA.  Authorised sole practitioner law practices, known as “recognised sole practices” are recognised and authorised separately by the SRA from regulated Partnership and Company legal service structures.

Sole Practitioners are required to provide information on their website and on their engagement letters which clearly identifies who authorises and regulates their service, and their authorisation or professional identification number which can be checked with their regulator.

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5 thoughts on “Who and what is a “Sole Practitioner”?

  • August 30, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Hi, would someone be able to answer the following question:
    If a barrister represents themselves as a sole practitioner, but gives their chambers as their correspondence address does that mean, in effect, that the chambers is their business address?
    I know of a case that a barrister has said they are “a sole practitioner but works with other barristers out from a set of chambers.” Therefore, presumably his chambers should know about this type of case?
    Thanks in advance for any reply.

    • August 30, 2017 at 11:07 am

      Good question Sophie – I’m not sure what this barrister means, you would need to clarify with him or her directly and the Chambers he/she is connected with. It could refer to the fact that barristers are often self employed, rather than employed by the Chambers they work from?

  • August 30, 2017 at 11:18 am

    Hi Martyn,
    Many thanks for your prompt response. It certainly is an interesting question as the barrister in question has recently resigned from his chambers giving no notice and it appears that since his resignation they have found out about a number of cases that they have now called ‘hidden’ cases such as the one in my question above, that they were not aware of. So it sounds like he should not have given the chambers as his contact address, or that he should have made the chambers aware of these cases as he would presumably owe the chambers rent, clerk fees, insurance payments etc.

    • August 30, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      I’m not sure Sophie, but the Chambers will I am sure help you. If you need any further clarification or help on what to do, I would suggest calling the Bar Council directly. If they are not able to help you directly they should be able to suggest what you should do or who to contact.

  • August 30, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Many thanks Martyn, I appreciate your help.


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