He said, she said

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25 March 2011

A Law Society/SRA liaison meeting in action

That the Law Society and Solicitors Regulation Authority are not the best of friends is not news to those close to the world of legal regulation. They generally keep it reasonably well hidden from public view but this week we have seen a bit of a “he said, she said” over what happened in the week between the SRA approving the ABS licensing application and the Law Society council agreeing it.

When is a compromise not a compromise? Or a concession not a concession? I don’t know and don’t particularly want to get drawn into it. But I will return briefly to my blog of three days ago and suggest that had both the Law Society council and the SRA held the conclusions of their debates in public, then we wouldn’t have got into this. A plague on both your houses, I say.

On a similar note, I also couldn’t understand why the Law Society held a high-powered conference on regulation yesterday – with speakers including justice minister Jonathan Djanogly and Legal Services Board chief executive Chris Kenny – but again decided to do it behind closed doors. Once more, what is there to hide?

I can’t decide if the tension between the Law Society and SRA is a good thing or not. It certainly looks petty at times, such as not inviting the SRA top brass to the Law Society Excellence Awards, or not having an SRA representative speak at yesterday’s conference. But equally at least nobody could ever suggest that the two are in cahoots with each other; the SRA certainly guards its independence jealously.

The profession would want to have its representative body going hard at the regulator in defence of their interests, and I don’t think the SRA would necessarily mind that. But I sense that the very nature of the governance arrangements, which see the two inextricably linked from an operational point of view, adds considerably to the problem.

After my own long association with Chancery Lane, I suspect I get a bit too caught up in the fevered world of Law Society politics, certainly stretching readers’ interest in the subject, so hopefully next week we can return to the bigger picture.

But one final note – I think I perhaps discovered the real reason why the council met in private: a senior council member told me that they were afraid of being misquoted (by people like me, I took the implication to be). But come the next big initiative, you can be sure they’ll be on the phone asking for coverage.

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