A new Bellwether discussion paper titled ‘A dangerous allegiance to the status quo?’ published today by LexisNexis UK, a leading global provider of information and analytics, highlights the very real concerns of Small and Independent Law firms around the forthcoming Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) reforms.
The LexisNexis Bellwether Research found that 57% of respondents were simply unaware that the SRA is proposing regulatory changes likely to take effect later this year. The SRA’s ‘Looking to the Future’ reform aims to simplify how consumers of legal services access the services of solicitors and law firms whilst ensuring that high professional standards are maintained.
Key concerns raised by respondents include:
- 70% believe that the reforms could compromise the ability of regulated firms to compete effectively with solicitors working outside regulated law firms
- 70% said that the reforms could have the long-term effect of lowering legal standards in the market
- 65% think the regulatory change will increase the level of competition in the market
- 49% of respondents describe the changes around the sale of non-reserved legal activities as a ‘risk’ to their profession; and
- only 16% believe the reform represents an opportunity.
Jon Whittle, Market Development Director, LexisNexis UK commented: “At a time when solicitors appear disillusioned with regulatory bodies, the findings raise real questions over the SRA’s relationship with smaller law firms and its strategy when it comes to reform. The SRA is there to ensure standards are maintained, but it needs to act in a way that does not alienate the firms with which it works. There is a pervasive concern that reforms could drive unfair levels of competition, compromise the rule of law, and lead to a race to the bottom, fundamentally damaging business reputation and bottom line.”
“While everyone polled recognised that the regulator’s primary role is to support the interests of clients, few professionals in small and independent law firms see a compelling argument for these reforms and even less have considered what action they should take as a result. However, whilst the SRA has work to do, it is still, to some extent, the responsibility of small firms themselves to keep up-to-date with industry developments and reform.”
The LexisNexis Bellwether research also reveals that:
- 64% believe that the law is becoming more of a job than a profession; and
- 46% see themselves as businesspeople more than lawyers
- 58% of respondents do not believe that the SRA has adequately represented small and independent law firms in its formulation of policy and regulation
- 55% of the solicitors polled believe that the changes will make no difference to their firm as they simply don’t know enough to judge
- 40% of respondents see no need to change
- 44% believe the reforms will provide lawyers with more flexible career choices; and
- just 5% of the solicitors polled articulated that this is a necessary change for the profession, making competition fairer, improving careers and giving solicitors and clients more options
Whittle continues: “Having in place systems and processes to monitor upcoming changes and regulation, to help ensure there is adequate time to respond, is crucial. Here at LexisNexis we have developed products which help firms to do just this. Investing time and resource in getting these procedures right will save a great deal of time and hassle down the line and avoid potentially damaging breaches or non-compliance. Responsibility sits on both sides – with solicitors and the regulator.”
To access the report please visit www.lexisnexis.co.uk/statusquo