City dominance of SRA board ends with ABS appointments

Harrison: Former chair of Stephensons

Senior figures from three alternative business structures (ABSs) are among the latest appointments to the board of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), introducing non-City backgrounds to its membership.

The 11-person board has a lay majority and all five of the solicitor members up until the start of this year had City backgrounds.

But with the terms of two of them – Elaine Williams and David Willis – coming to an end, they have been replaced by Ann Harrison, who retired last year after more than a decade as the chairman of innovative north-west ABS Stephensons, and Elizabeth Smart, a professor of legal education at Sheffield Hallam University.

Professor Smart is also a director of SHU Law, a not-for-profit ABS set up in 2019 that allows the university to offer a law degree that incorporates mandatory work experience into every year of the course.

Ms Harrison is a former chair of the Law Society’s law management section.

Also joining the board are non-lawyers Vikas Shah, a non-executive director of Southport serious injury ABS Fletchers, and Dermot Nolan, the former chief executive of energy regulator Ofgem.

They replace Dame Denise Platt, chair of the Commission for Social Care Inspection, and former LibDem MP David Heath, whose terms also came to an end.

Mr Shah is an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist who was awarded an MBE for services to business and the economy in 2018. Before Mr Nolan worked in regulation, he was an academic, lecturing in economics for five years at Royal Holloway in London.

The other solicitors on the board are Geoff Nicholls, a senior partner at City firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; City-trained Barry Matthews, general counsel at Meggitt PLC; and one-time Clifford Chance managing partner Tony Williams, who is now a law firm consultant.

More than 200 people applied for the four posts. The SRA said it put an emphasis on attracting interest from a diversity of candidates using social media and outreach to “diversity champions” within the profession and more widely.

As a result, the field included “many more people from a range of social and ethnic backgrounds, geographies and legal practice types”.

SRA chair Anna Bradley said: “During the recruitment process, we met some excellent potential future Board and senior executive members from diverse communities that we would like help develop for the future.

“We will therefore be exploring the creation of a programme to encourage and engage talented people in senior roles in legal regulation and build a pipeline of future candidates for the sector.”

The other members of the board are Peter Higson, former chief executive of Healthcare Inspectorate Wales; Paul Loft, ex-managing director of Homebase and Habitat, and Selina Ullah, a non-executive with 25 years of board experience.

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